Tag Archives: noir

A Conversation with Spy Fiction Author John Knoerle

John Knoerle

Please welcome my special guest, spy fiction author John Knoerle. John is here today to talk about his latest release, The Proxy Assassin. John  began his creative endeavors in the early 70s as a member of the DeLuxe Radio Theatre, a comedy troupe in Santa Barbara. He then moved to LA and did stand-up comedy, opening for the likes of Jay Leno and Robin Williams.

Knoerle wrote the screenplay Quiet Fire, which starred Karen Black, and the stage play The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, an LA Time’s Critic’s Choice. He also worked as a staff writer for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

Knoerle moved to Chicago in 1996 with his wife Judie. His first novel, “Crystal Meth Cowboys,” was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, “The Violin Player,” won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction.

John Knoerle’s novel, A Pure Double Cross, was the first volume of a late 40s spy trilogy featuring former OSS agent Hal Schroeder. The second volume, A Despicable Profession, was published in 2010. Knoerle’s latest book,The Proxy Assassin, Book Three of the American Spy Trilogy, has just been released.

Visit his website at www.johnknoerle.com.

It is a pleasure to have him here with us today!

Thanks for this interview, John.  What an illustrious background!  Let’s start at the beginning?  How did you get intoThe Proxy Assassin the entertainment field?

John: I was working at the college radio station at UC Santa Barbara in the early 70s because I was a music nut. One fateful day two members of The Firesign Theater, a very popular and sophisticated comedy troupe, swung by to record promo spots for a gig on campus.

My job was to engineer the session. Firesign’s David Ossman and Phil Proctor improvised three brilliant and hilarious thirty-second spots in no time and left me in Studio B, stunned and amazed.

I didn’t have a clue if I could do what they did, but I sure knew I wanted to give it a try!

Was comedy your passion?

John: It became my passion. And The DeLuxe Radio Theater had good success in Santa Barbara in the 70s. But we were big fish in a small pond.

When I moved to LA to do stand-up, what comics call the room, got a whole lot colder.

Foolishly, I thought that my brilliant material would win them over and I wouldn’t have to stoop to that hackneyed ‘Where are you folks from?’ patter to warm up the crowd.

Lesson learned. Unless you’re well-known, you have to establish a connection with the audience before they will laugh at your jokes.

How’d you go from comedy to writing spy fiction?  Was it something you loved reading?

John: Yes. Though I wrote two novels based on personal experience before I branched out. It took me years of research to become conversant enough in espionage to attempt to fictionalize it.

I’m pretty confident that if you Google ‘former stand-up comics who now write spy fiction’, I’ll be the only hit!

Your first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, was optioned for a Fox TV movie.  Tell us about that?

John: Actually it was optioned for a TV series. Crystal Meth Cowboys was my first novel, self-published after years of rejection. A Hollywood writer saw it in a bookstore in LA – the only copy in the joint – and gave it a read.

Then I got an email inquiring about ‘sub-rights’. The writer and I – her name is Jacqui Zambrano – hit it off and wrote an hour-long pilot script that got the ball rolling. We got as close as auditioning actors and scouting locations when somebody upstairs pulled the plug at the last second.

Your latest book, The Proxy Assassin, is the last book of your American Spy Trilogy.  Is it sad to say goodbye to such a fantastic series?

John: Yes.

Can you give us a brief description of each book?

John: Book One, A Pure Double Cross, is Hal Schroeder, former OSS behind-enemy-lines spy, coming home to Ohio in late ’45, bitter and disillusioned after WWII. When the FBI seeks to exploit his undercover skills, he sees a way to make a pile and get the hell out.

Book Two, A Despicable Profession, is Hal’s uh-oh moment when he realizes he may enjoy intrigue and espionage a bit more than he is willing to admit.

Book Three, The Proxy Assassin, is, essentially, Hal’s transition from boy to man.

What’s next for you?

John: Not sure. I take the task of writing fiction very seriously, even if my style is somewhat smartass and throwaway. Making it appear to the reader that you’re not making much of an effort takes a ton of work, trust me.

And the prospect of writing another novel at this point in my life is….exhausting.

Thank you so much for this interview, John.  Do you have anything else you’d like to share with us?

John: Yes, here’s my great words of wisdom: travel! Break your routine. Travel to strange places, the stranger the better. It can help you appreciate what you’ve got and it makes life seem longer and fuller.

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Read-a-Chapter: The Proxy Assassin by John Knoerle

 

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the spy fiction, The Proxy Assassin by John Knoerle. Enjoy!

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The Proxy Assassin

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Steel Press (September 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982090390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982090398

October, 1948. Former OSS agent Hal Schroeder gets invited to Washington D.C. by Frank Wisner, who heads the CIA’s new covert ops division. Hal is whisked off to Wisner’s Maryland shore retreat and introduced to a brace of Romanian royals, including the scarily beautiful Princess Stela Varadja, a direct descendant of Vlad Tepes Draculea.

Then Frank Wisner pops the question. Would Hal consider parachuting into a remote mountain camp to meet with the leader of a group of Romanian anti-Communist guerillas?

“I had already survived two previous suicide missions and a third did not appeal. But I told Frank Wisner I would need a few days to think it over. I had some sightseeing to do.”

As it turns out Hal Schroeder gets to do a lot more sightseeing than he bargained for. A journey that brings the American Spy Trilogy to a surprising, and emotional, conclusion.

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Chapter One

The key number to remember when you parachute out of an airplane at an altitude of five hundred feet is two. You have two seconds to do two things. Get your feet down and your cord pulled. That’s it, that’s all you need to know.

I hadn’t jumped since ‘44 so the flyboys thought it would be a good idea for me to take a couple low-altitude warm-ups from a C-45 at Andrews AFB. Shake off the rust after a four year layoff.

Sure. Why not triple my chances of falling five hundred feet in six seconds and smacking the sod at ninety miles an hour? I told them to get stuffed. I’d risk my tender hide only when it mattered. And I’d pack my own damn chute.

I was more of a jerk than I needed to be to those earnest young men who were just about my age but seemed like kids. It wasn’t their fault I had fumbled and stumbled my way into another suicide mission.

The drop zone was located in rural central Romania. Transylvania, an area ringed by the thickly-wooded Carpathian Mountains. Which explained the tiny drop zone which explained the low altitude jump.

The mission wasn’t a complete disaster. I jumped out the joe hole and into the night sky with one big improvement over WW II. It wasn’t a blind drop, I had a group of resistance fighters waiting to greet me.

I executed a perfect two-point landing in a clearing between two mountains. My contact was Captain Sorin Dragomir, a large fortyish man with waves of thick brown hair. His well-upholstered gut and full set of teeth marked him as a man of stature.

That and his tasseled hessians and uniform jacket, buttons bursting, the gold braid above his breast pocket jiggling as he shook my hand. His dozen or so khaki-clad men were smaller and darker-skinned.

A dozen men. Christ. Joe Stalin must be quaking in his boots.

I got on my hotshot new Joan/Eleanor transceiver, rang the radio operator of the C-45 circling overhead and gave him the code for a safe landing. “Chaise lounge.”

“Roger.”

“Godspeed.” With any luck the crew would reach their refueling strip in northern Turkey with a couple gallons left in the tank.

It was late, all I wanted was a quick snort and some shuteye. But the Captain made his men stand to attention around a guttering fire as he made a welcoming speech in English about the deep and abiding friendship between our two great nations. An elderly man stood beside him and translated his remarks into rapid-fire Romanian.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that it sounded a lot like Italian. One thing I’d learned in my mission briefing was that, despite the vast expanse of pale and dour Yugoslavs and Hungarians separating them from Italy, Romanians considered themselves charter members of the Roman Empire. Which they were many centuries ago. Funny what people choose to take pride in.

The troops dispersed after the welcoming ceremony. The Captain and I retired to his little fortress at the edge of the clearing. It was a very old building. I had to bend at the waist to clear the doorway. The main room was lit by candles in an iron ceiling wheel. No fire in the fireplace though the night was cold.

Before the front door was closed I caught a glimpse of two of Dragomir’s troops skittering by, headed home. It looked as though they had changed back into civilian clothes, which I took to mean that Captain Dragomir had not secured even this obscure slice of real estate.

The Captain and I seated ourselves at a table made from dark, foot-wide planks. The elderly man, apparently Drago-mir’s valet, went to a rough cupboard and fetched a bottle of twenty-year-old hooch and two crystal tumblers.

“I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, Captain, but I don’t drink Scotch.”

“Why not?”

“It tastes like peat moss.”

The Captain laughed at me. I knew the local drink was plum brandy so I asked for some. Dragomir laughed some more and issued instructions to his man.

We were served a delicious cold supper by candlelight. Three kinds of cheese, smoked ham, crusty bread, cucumbers in sour cream and sliced tomatoes. I should’ve stuck with peat moss, however. The plum brandy tasted like gasoline.

Frank Wisner, my boss, had set Dragomir and his men a task, which I relayed to him. They were to conduct surveillance on a Romanian Army encampment about ten kilometers to the southwest. This was to serve two purposes. To determine if the Captain’s men could follow orders. And to assess the readiness and morale of the Romanian Army in a remote outpost.

The Soviet Army was spread thin throughout Eastern Europe. They had a base outside Bucharest, for instance, but they relied on the Romanian Army to keep order in the hinterlands. And the hinterlands weren’t happy. The puppet government in Bucharest did as Moscow instructed. It collectivized farms and closed churches, which did not go over well with the locals.

Frank Wisner thought the Romanian Army would prove an unreliable ally for the Soviets, doubted they would open fire on their own people if push came to shove. How I was supposed to determine that by examining a remote Romanian outpost through binoculars was left to me.

Once I explained it to him Captain Dragomir agreed to Frank Wisner’s assignment without hesitation. We would march tomorrow evening, zero hundred hours. And how was his old friend Frank coming along in his important new job?

“Fine.”

The beeswax candles flickered in the drafty, heavy-timbered little fort. The old man cleared our plates and went away. The Captain poured himself another tumbler as the shadows danced.

“This building dates back to the 17th Century. It was a Swabian hunting lodge.” He pointed to the stag horns mounted over the door, and the blackened hooks in the attic.

“That is where they smoked the meat.”

Meat hooks, ugh. Hitler was fond of meat hooks.

Captain Dragomir was keen to tell me all about his elaborate plan to foment rebellion against Moscow’s puppet regime in Bucharest but I was not, at this late hour, keen to listen to his delusions of grandeur.

That would have been a mistake under normal circum-stances. If you are sent on a risky and expensive mission to gather intelligence you don’t insult your source by saying, “I’m all in, Captain, let’s discuss this tomorrow.” That’s because tomorrow has a way of scampering off down the road while you’re lacing up your shoes.

But, as luck would have it, my bad attitude paid off.

Reprinted with permission from The Proxy Assassin by John Knoerle. © 2012 by Blue Steel Press

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A Despicable Profession: An Interview with John Knoerle


John Knoerle was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1949 and migrated to California with his family in the 1960s. He has worked as a stand-up comic, a voiceover actor and a radio reporter. He wrote the screenplay for “Quiet Fire,” which starred Karen Black and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, and the stage play “The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club,” an LA Time’s Critics Choice. John also worked as a writer for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Knoerle’s first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, published in 2003, was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, The Violin Player,won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction. Knoerle is currently at work on The American Spy Trilogy. Book One, A Pure Double Cross, came out in 2008. Book Two, A Despicable Profession, was published in August of 2010.

John Knoerle currently lives in Chicago with his wife, Judie.

You can visit his website at www.bluesteelpress.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, John. Can you tell us what your latest book, A Despicable Profession, is all about?

It’s Book Two of the American Spy Trilogy, which follows the adventures of young Hal Schroeder, a low-level OSS agent in World War II. Here’s a brief synopsis:

May, 1946. America is basking in hard-won peace and prosperity. The OSS has been disbanded, CIA does not yet exist. Rumors swirl about the Red Army massing tanks along the Elbe in East Germany.

Former OSS agent Hal Schroeder gets an offer from Global Commerce LTD to be a trade rep in Berlin. He flies to New York to meet his new boss. Hal’s jaw drops when former OSS Chief Wild Bill Donovan strides in. Schroeder, who survived perilous duty behind German lines, says he is no longer interested in being a spy. General Donovan assures him that’s not part of his job description.

Hal comes to doubt that when he meets his immediate superior in Berlin. It’s Victor Jacobson, the case officer who sent him on repeated suicide missions in WWII.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Hal Schroeder is a former OSS agent who has managed, despite himself, to become a local hero in Cleveland. He feels guilty about that because his actions were anything but heroic. He wants to make amends, with one important stipulation – he wants to live to tell about it.

The supporting cast includes the legendary Wild Bill Donovan, former head of OSS. Hal’s gung-ho case officer, Victor Jacobson. A Soviet NKVD Major named Leonid Vitinov who claims to have crossed over. And Leonid’s wan and beautiful wife, Anna.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Wild Bill Donovan was a real person of course, so extensive research was key.

But the rest of the cast are creatures of my imagination. Hal, for instance, is an idealized version of my younger self – same hard, wise-cracking exterior protecting a deep sense of uncertainty about himself.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I spend a solid year outlining the plot. I tried winging it one time but kept writing myself into a corner.

In the spy and mystery genres, I believe you need to know your destination before you start the journey.

Q: Your book is set in Berlin.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Berlin in 1946 was the most interesting city in the world, IMHO. It was a viper’s nest of victorious postwar allies struggling for strategic advantage at the very beginning of the Cold War.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes, indeed. See above.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Col. John Norwood, head of the British MI6 Berlin station, has swooped in at the last moment to rescue Hal Schroeder from a potentially fatal confrontation with the Red Army in the Soviet Sector.

A relieved Hal follows Norwood to his villa, wondering how the Colonel knew he was in jeopardy, and what the Colonel will want in exchange.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

“Sir, my special kind of cunning is real simple,” I said, leaning forward. “I was doing a decent job in Freiburg and Ulm and Karlsruhe logging troop movements and transmitting weather reports for bomber runs. I figured if I was dead my effectiveness might suffer. And, I figured, why get myself croaked carrying out suicide missions dictated by some asshole Case Officer who was snug as a bug in Bern drinking Allen Dulles’ wine cellar dry?”

“I wasn’t,” said Jacobson, “but please continue.”

Please continue? Christ, they were shorthanded.

“I have only one job requirement sir. Survival.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Jacobson, drier than my swollen tongue.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, John.  We wish you much success!

I appreciate your interest!

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Five Things I Learned While Writing Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri

Vincent Zandri

We have a special guest post by Vincent Zandri, author of the thriller novel, Moonlight Falls, today.

Moonlight Falls is the Albany, New York-based paranoid tale (in the Hitchcock tradition) of former APD Detective turned Private Investigator/Massage Therapist, Richard “Dick” Moonlight, who believes he might be responsible for the brutal slaying by knife of his illicit lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana. The situation is made all the worse since Scarlet is the wife of Moonlight’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jake Montana.

Why does Moonlight believe he might be responsible?

He’s got a small fragment of a .22 hollow point round buried inside his brain, lodge directly up against his cerebral cortex. The result of a botched suicide attempt four years prior to the novel’s start, an operation to remove the bullt frag would be too dangerous.

But the bullet causes Moonlight lots of problems, the least of which are the occasional memory loss and his rational ability to tell right from wrong. The bullet frag also might shift at any moment, making coma and/or sudden death, a very real possibility.

Still, Moonlight has been trying to get his life together as of late.

But when Scarlet begs him to make the trip over to her house late one rainy Sunday night to issue one of his “massages,” he makes a big mistake by sleeping with her. Later, having passed out in her bed, he will be rudely awakened by a garage door opening and Jake’s unexpected and very drunken homecoming. Making his impromptu escape out a top floor window, Moonlight will seek the safety of his home.

Two hours later however, he will receive another unexpected visit from Jake Montana. This time the big Captain has sobering news to report. He’s discovered his wife’s mutilated body in her own bed. She’s been murdered and now he needs the P.I. to investigate it in association with Albany ’s “overtaxed” Special Independent Unit before I.A. pokes their nose into the affair. Moonlight takes a big step back. Is it possible he made a second trip to the Montana home-sweet-home and just has no recollection of it? Once there, did he perform a heinous crime on his part-time lover? Or is this some kind of set up by his former boss? Is it really Jake who is responsible for Scarlet’s death? Does he wish for Moonlight to cover up his involvement, seal the case before Internal Affairs starts poking their nose into the situation?

There’s another problem too.

Covering Moonlight’s palms and the pads of his fingers are numerous scratches and cuts. Are these defensive wounds? Wounds he received when Scarlet put up a struggle? Or are they offensive wounds? Wounds he couldn’t avoid when making his attack on Scarlet with a blade? The answer is not so simple since Moonlight has no idea where he acquired the wounds.

Having no choice but to take on the mission (if only to cover his own ass), Moonlight can only hope the answers to his many questions point to his former boss and not himself.

This is the exciting premise and here are five things Vincent Zandri learned while writing the novel.  Enjoy!

…………………………………….

Five Things I Learned While Writing Moonlight Falls
by Vincent Zandri

Many things were learned during the five on-again, off-again years while I was writing my new noir, thriller, Moonlight Falls, the least if which, is that initial publishing success can be fading. Back in 1999, when my first commercial thriller, As Catch Can, was first published in hardcover by Delacorte, I assumed that I had found a permanent literary home for the rest of my life, and that the next stop in my green career was the Pulitzer Prize. But when Delacorte merged with another publisher, many of its authors were quickly transferred elsewhere and from there, kindly shown the door. For me, it was back to square one.

But despite the trial and tribulations of a commercial publishing world that has been described as “perilous,” I was nonetheless able to adhere to a program of good, solid writing, day in and day out. That alone became my shield against a volatile publishing business. That alone was my guiding force in a short literary life that had seen great ups and that now, was realizing a very deep, seemingly bottomless pit.

Still I trudged on through a period of several years where I did not publish a single book, but instead concentrated on the writing of several manuscripts, not the least of which, became Moonlight Falls. Here are five things I learned about myself and the world around me during that time.

1. Nothing replaces rock solid writing, research and rewriting. Or, the three R’s, if you will. Even though I might have quit the business altogether and moved on to something less volatile than the writing and publishing life, I still adhered to a rigorous writing program day in and day out, even when there was no money coming in. I chose this path because in the back of my head, I always knew that the novel would one day be published. Not self-published, mind you, but published in the traditional format. Which leads me to…

2. Never lose your faith in yourself and your ability, even in the face of domestic non-tranquility. Things around the house during my, lets call them “wilderness years,” were not very happy. I’d just married my second wife, Laura, whom I believed was my soul mate. We came together at a time when things were great. I was on top of the world as a writer and we were traveling the world. But then, when things got hard. I retreated back into my shell and nearly lost all confidence in my ability to write a great story. But curiously, and sadly, as Laura and I began to break up, I regained my confidence. Which leads me to…

3. Don’t quite the day job. Or in my case, don’t give up the freelance writing and journalism because you’re suddenly under the impression you’re the next Norman Mailer. What you must constantly remind yourself is that even a world renowned writer like Mailer was broke half the time. When I published As Catch Can and the follow up, Godchild, I assumed I’d never have to write another stitch of journalism again; that I could place all my literary eggs into one basket. Turns out, had I kept my foot in the freelance writing door, I might have saved my marriage and my home by maintaining at least a semblance of income. Luckily, I was able to make a return to journalism but only after the domestic damage was done. Which leads me to…

4. Learn to weather the storms and know when to move on with your life. Said another way, learn how to swallow you pride. It’s a tough thing losing everything you have worked so hard for in life, from your publisher to your wife to your home. But to have it all happen at once, well, that’s enough to break even the strongest man for good. But this is the life we live as writers and novelists. This is the life we have chosen. While in many ways I would stop at nothing to have my wife back, I know I am powerless to do anything about it other than write the best I can, and do so consistently and without prejudice; without concern for what the publishing market is currently bearing. Which leads me to…

5. The publishing market is undergoing severe and rapid change. Traditional commercial publishers are dying. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. What’s replacing them are electronically based, independent houses that although utilizing the traditional publishing model of accepting a manuscript based upon its merits as a work of art, now publish the manuscripts in both electronic and POD format. Yes, the independent bookstores will hate you for it, and even turn up their noses at you. But 90% of all book buyers are making their purchases online. Many of them are doing so via Kindle, I-Phone, BlackBerry, and other electronic means. It’s the new world publishing model of social media, virtual tours, book trailers, blog talk radio, mommy blogs, etc., and it is here to stay. More then likely, it will give over to an influx of self-published material over the next few years, while big agent firms and big publishers die off.

Moonlight Falls author, Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

www.vincentzandri.com

http://vincentzandri.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/VincentZandri

http://www.facebook.com/vincent.zandri?ref=profile

http://www.myspace.com/vincentzandri

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Book Excerpt: Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri

Title: Moonlight Falls
Author: Vincent Zandri
Genre: Thriller
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: R.J. Buckley Publishing (Dec 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0758229208
ISBN-13: 978-0758229205

Moonlight Falls is the Albany, New York-based paranoid tale (in the Hitchcock tradition) of former APD Detective turned Private Investigator/Massage Therapist, Richard “Dick” Moonlight, who believes he might be responsible for the brutal slaying by knife of his illicit lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana. The situation is made all the worse since Scarlet is the wife of Moonlight’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jake Montana.

Why does Moonlight believe he might be responsible?

He’s got a small fragment of a .22 hollow point round buried inside his brain, lodge directly up against his cerebral cortex. The result of a botched suicide attempt four years prior to the novel’s start, an operation to remove the bullt frag would be too dangerous.

But the bullet causes Moonlight lots of problems, the least of which are the occasional memory loss and his rational ability to tell right from wrong. The bullet frag also might shift at any moment, making coma and/or sudden death, a very real possibility.

Still, Moonlight has been trying to get his life together as of late.

But when Scarlet begs him to make the trip over to her house late one rainy Sunday night to issue one of his “massages,” he makes a big mistake by sleeping with her. Later, having passed out in her bed, he will be rudely awakened by a garage door opening and Jake’s unexpected and very drunken homecoming. Making his impromptu escape out a top floor window, Moonlight will seek the safety of his home.

Two hours later however, he will receive another unexpected visit from Jake Montana. This time the big Captain has sobering news to report. He’s discovered his wife’s mutilated body in her own bed. She’s been murdered and now he needs the P.I. to investigate it in association with Albany ’s “overtaxed” Special Independent Unit before I.A. pokes their nose into the affair. Moonlight takes a big step back. Is it possible he made a second trip to the Montana home-sweet-home and just has no recollection of it? Once there, did he perform a heinous crime on his part-time lover? Or is this some kind of set up by his former boss? Is it really Jake who is responsible for Scarlet’s death? Does he wish for Moonlight to cover up his involvement, seal the case before Internal Affairs starts poking their nose into the situation?

There’s another problem too.

Covering Moonlight’s palms and the pads of his fingers are numerous scratches and cuts. Are these defensive wounds? Wounds he received when Scarlet put up a struggle? Or are they offensive wounds? Wounds he couldn’t avoid when making his attack on Scarlet with a blade? The answer is not so simple since Moonlight has no idea where he acquired the wounds.

Having no choice but to take on the mission (if only to cover his own ass), Moonlight can only hope the answers to his many questions point to his former boss and not himself.

Excerpt:

Albany, New York
140 miles northeast of New York City

I’m escorted into a four-walled basement room by two suited
agents—one tall, slim and bearded, the other shorter, stockier, cleanshaven.
The space we occupy contains a one-way mirror which I know
from experience hides a tripod-mounted video camera, a sound man and several FBI agents, the identities of whom are concealed. There’s no
furniture in the room, other than a long metal table and four metal chairs. No wallpaper, no soft lamp light, no piped-in music. Just harsh white overhead light, concrete and a funny worm smell.

As I enter the room for the first time, the tall agent tells me to take a seat at the table.

“We appreciate your cooperation,” the stocky agent jumps in.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch my reflection in the mirror.

I’m of medium height. Not tall, not short. Not too badly put together for having reached the big four-zero thanks to the cross-training routine I put myself on not long after my hospital release. Nowadays, my head is shaved. There’s a small button-sized scar behind my right earlobe in the place where the fragment of .22 caliber hollow-point penetrated
the skull. I wear a black leather jacket over black jeans and lace-up combat boots left over from my military service during the first Gulf War. My eyeglasses are rectangular and retrofitted from a pair of cheap sunglasses I picked up at a Penn Station kiosk. They make my stubblecovered face seem slightly wider than it really is. So people have told me.
Having been led to my chair, I am then asked to focus my gaze directly onto the mirror so that the video man or woman stationed on the opposite side of the glass can adjust the shooting angle and focus.

“Please say something,” requests Stocky Agent while removing his suit jacket, setting it over the back of an empty chair.

“There once was a cop from Nantucket ,” I say to break the ice.

But no one laughs.

“You get that?” the taller agent barks out to no one in particular.

“Okay to go,” comes a tinny, hidden speaker voice. “You gonna finish that poem, Mr. Moonlight?”

“Knock it off,” Stocky Agent orders. Then turns back to me.

“Before we get started, can we get you a coffee? A cappuccino? You can get one right out of the new machine upstairs.”

“Mind if I burn one?”

Tall Bearded Agent purses his lips, cocks his head in the direction of a plastic No Smoking placard to the wall.

Stocky Agent makes a sour face, shakes his head, rolls up the sleeves on his thick arms. He reaches across the heavy wood table, grabs an ashtray, and clunks it down in front of me as if it were a bedpan.

“The rule doesn’t apply down here,” he says. Then, in this deep affected voice, he adds, “Let’s get started, Mr. Moonlight. You already know the routine. For now we just want to get to the bottom of the who, what, wheres and hows of this train wreck.”

“You forgot the why,” I say, firing up a Marlboro Light. “You need to know the why to establish an entire familiarity with any given case.”

Stocky Agent does a double take, smiles. Like he knows I’m fucking with him.

“Don’t be a dick, Dick,” he says.

I guess it’s important not to take life too seriously. He laughs. I laugh. We all laugh. Ice officially broken. I exhale some smoke, sit back in my chair.

They’re right, of course. I know the drill. I know it’s the truth they’re after. The truth and almost nothing but the truth. But what they also want is my perspective—my take on the entire Scarlet Montana affair, from soup to peanuts. They want me to leave nothing out. I’ll start with my on-again/off-again love affair with my boss’s wife. Maybe from
there I’ll move on to the dead bodies, my cut-up hands, the Saratoga
Springs Russians, the Psychic Fair, the heroin, the illegal organ harvesting
operation, the exhumations, the attempts on my life, the lies, deceptions
and fuck-overs galore.

As a former fulltime Albany detective, I know that nobody sees the same thing through the same set of eyeballs. What’s important to one person might appear insignificant or useless to another. What those federal agents want right now inside the basement interview room is my most reliable version of the truth—an accurate, objective truth that
separates fact from fantasy.

Theoretically speaking.

“Ask away,” I say, just as the buzzing starts up in the core of my head.

“Just start at the beginning,” Stocky Agent requests. “We have all night.”

Sitting up straight, I feel my right arm beginning to go numb on me. So numb I drop the lit cigarette onto the table. The inside of my head chimes like a belfry. Stocky Agent is staring at me from across the table with these wide bug eyes like my skull and brains are about to pull a JFK all over him.

But then, just as soon as it all starts, the chiming and the paralysis subsides.

With a trembling hand, I manage to pick up the partially smoked cigarette, exhale a very resigned, now smokeless breath and stamp the cancer stick out.

“Everything you wanna know,” I whisper. “You want me to tell
you everything.”
“Everything you remember,” Tall Agent smiles. “If that’s at all possible.”

Stocky Agent pulls a stick of gum from a pack in his pants pocket, carefully unwraps the tin foil and folds the gum before stuffing it into his mouth.

Juicy Fruit. I can smell it from all the way across the table.

By all indicators, it’s going to be a long night.

“I think I’ll take that cappuccino after all,” I say.

For the first time since entering the interview room, I feel the
muscles in my face constricting. I know without looking that my
expression has turned into something miles away from shiny happy. I’m
dead serious.

If you would like to pick up your copy of Moonlight Falls, click here.

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Interview with Vincent Zandri, author of Moonlight Falls

Moonlight Falls’ author, Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.  You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at http://vincentzandri.blogspot.com/.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Vincent. Can you tell us what your latest book, Moonlight Falls, is all about?

Moonlight Falls is basically film noir on paper. It’s about Richard “Dick” Moonlight, suicide survivor who now must cope with a small piece of .22 caliber bullet lodged in his brain. Because it’s pressed up against his cerebral cortex he has trouble making good decisions and he suffers on occasion from short-term memory loss. In times of stress he passes out. He could suffer a major stroke or die at any moment. So time means little to him. When he makes the wrong decision to sleep with his former boss’s wife and she later turns up brutally murdered, he believes it’s possible he might have killed her and just can’t remember it.

I believe I was down in Manhattan promoting As Catch Can with my then Delacorte editor, Jacob Hoye (now MTV Books), when I came across a story about a man who survived a suicide attempt and lived with a piece of bullet shrapnel still stuck in his brain. At the time I was also influenced by a self-stabbing suicide art exhibit that I caught in a Soho gallery by the artist infamous artist Damien Hirst. I’ve also been fascinated with a rarely spoken about story from my family history in which my paternal grandfather committed suicide by slicing his neck open with a straight razor in front of his grown children.

Q: Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

Moonlight Falls is my fourth published novel, although I’ve written or am in the process of completing four others. Plus numerous starts and stops. My first novel length effort, Permanence, was a literary effort based on my most anthologized short story. The next novel, As Catch Can, was a huge commercial effort and it generated a lot of money. MF is more literary in style, with several POVs and time shifts. It’s definitely more small lit press oriented.

Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri (click on cover to purchase at Amazon)

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

This one went through many transformations, depending upon what agent was repping it at the time. Everyone injected their two cents. In the end, I stripped it to the book I originally envisioned and that’s the one that got published.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The novel has also generated some movie interest from Heyday Productions who produce the Harry Potter movies. Because my main character is named Dick, my dad, many people have asked me if he’s based on my dad, who also goes by that name.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

Up by 7:00AM, make the coffee, drink it while putting in a couple of hours in my writing studio, which is also my bedroom. Then I head outside to run 3 or 4 miles. Then off to the gym for some weight training. After lunch, I write all afternoon, until it’s time to rehearse with my band. Then I like to head out for a drink and dinner. When I’m on assignment like I was this past June in Africa (http://rt.com/About_Us/Blogs/Embedded_in_Africa/2009-06-05.html) where I covered the work a hospital ship is doing there off the coast of Benin, the writing and exploring can be non-stop.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

Run, lift weights, eat, drink, travel, walk, fly fish, hike, play drums in my punk band, The Blisterz, read, think, play with my kids, spend time with my girlfriend, the New York artist, Gina Occhiogrosso.

Q: What book changed your life?

Tough to narrow it down to one. Max Frisch’s Homo Faber would have to be the one book that stuck with me as an existential body  of work written sparely, without sentimentality. I wanted to convey that in my noir.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Vincent Zandri: A Life Story/PART I

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

I’m not nearly as crazy as I look!

Thank you for this interview, Vincent.  I wish you much success!

Vincent Zandri is on virtual book tour throughout February and March 2010.  If you’d like to visit his official tour page, click here!

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Announcing thriller author Vincent Zandri’s Moonlight Falls Virtual Book Tour February & March 2010

Join Vincent Zandri, author of the thriller novel, Moonlight Falls (R.J. Buckley Publishing), as he virtually tours the blogosphere in February and March on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

Vincent Zandri

About Vincent Zandri

Vincent Zandri is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Moonlight Falls is his fourth novel. He is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for RT ( Russia Today TV) which have been syndicated and translated in several different languages throughout the world. He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia, Globalspec and more. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thrillerl. Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz. You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com.

Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri (click on cover to purchase)

About Moonlight Falls

Moonlight Falls is the Albany, New York-based paranoid tale (in the Hitchcock tradition) of former APD Detective turned Private Investigator/Massage Therapist, Richard “Dick” Moonlight, who believes he might be responsible for the brutal slaying by knife of his illicit lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana. The situation is made all the worse since Scarlet is the wife of Moonlight’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jake Montana.

Why does Moonlight believe he might be responsible?

He’s got a small fragment of a .22 hollow point round buried inside his brain, lodge directly up against his cerebral cortex. The result of a botched suicide attempt four years prior to the novel’s start, an operation to remove the bullt frag would be too dangerous.

But the bullet causes Moonlight lots of problems, the least of which are the occasional memory loss and his rational ability to tell right from wrong. The bullet frag also might shift at any moment, making coma and/or sudden death, a very real possibility.

Still, Moonlight has been trying to get his life together as of late.

But when Scarlet begs him to make the trip over to her house late one rainy Sunday night to issue one of his “massages,” he makes a big mistake by sleeping with her. Later, having passed out in her bed, he will be rudely awakened by a garage door opening and Jake’s unexpected and very drunken homecoming. Making his impromptu escape out a top floor window, Moonlight will seek the safety of his home.

Two hours later however, he will receive another unexpected visit from Jake Montana. This time the big Captain has sobering news to report. He’s discovered his wife’s mutilated body in her own bed. She’s been murdered and now he needs the P.I. to investigate it in association with Albany ‘s “overtaxed” Special Independent Unit before I.A. pokes their nose into the affair. Moonlight takes a big step back. Is it possible he made a second trip to the Montana home-sweet-home and just has no recollection of it? Once there, did he perform a heinous crime on his part-time lover? Or is this some kind of set up by his former boss? Is it really Jake who is responsible for Scarlet’s death? Does he wish for Moonlight to cover up his involvement, seal the case before Internal Affairs starts poking their nose into the situation?

There’s another problem too.

Covering Moonlight’s palms and the pads of his fingers are numerous scratches and cuts. Are these defensive wounds? Wounds he received when Scarlet put up a struggle? Or are they offensive wounds? Wounds he couldn’t avoid when making his attack on Scarlet with a blade? The answer is not so simple since Moonlight has no idea where he acquired the wounds.

Having no choice but to take on the mission (if only to cover his own ass), Moonlight can only hope the answers to his many questions point to his former boss and not himself.

Read the Excerpt!

Albany, New York
140 miles northeast of New York City
I’m escorted into a four-walled basement room by two suited
agents—one tall, slim and bearded, the other shorter, stockier, cleanshaven.
The space we occupy contains a one-way mirror which I know
from experience hides a tripod-mounted video camera, a sound man and
several FBI agents, the identities of whom are concealed. There’s no
furniture in the room, other than a long metal table and four metal
chairs. No wallpaper, no soft lamp light, no piped-in music. Just harsh
white overhead light, concrete and a funny worm smell.
As I enter the room for the first time, the tall agent tells me to
take a seat at the table.
“We appreciate your cooperation,” the stocky agent jumps in.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch my reflection in the mirror.
I’m of medium height. Not tall, not short. Not too badly put
together for having reached the big four-zero thanks to the cross-training
routine I put myself on not long after my hospital release. Nowadays, my
head is shaved. There’s a small button-sized scar behind my right earlobe
in the place where the fragment of .22 caliber hollow-point penetrated
the skull. I wear a black leather jacket over black jeans and lace-up
combat boots left over from my military service during the first Gulf
War. My eyeglasses are rectangular and retrofitted from a pair of cheap
sunglasses I picked up at a Penn Station kiosk. They make my stubblecovered
face seem slightly wider than it really is. So people have told me.
Having been led to my chair, I am then asked to focus my gaze
directly onto the mirror so that the video man or woman stationed on
the opposite side of the glass can adjust the shooting angle and focus.
“Please say something,” requests Stocky Agent while removing
his suit jacket, setting it over the back of an empty chair.
“There once was a cop from Nantucket ,” I say to break the ice.
But no one laughs.
“You get that?” the taller agent barks out to no one in particular.
“Okay to go,” comes a tinny, hidden speaker voice. “You gonna
finish that poem, Mr. Moonlight?”
“Knock it off,” Stocky Agent orders. Then turns back to me.
“Before we get started, can we get you a coffee? A cappuccino? You can
get one right out of the new machine upstairs.”
“Mind if I burn one?”
Tall Bearded Agent purses his lips, cocks his head in the
direction of a plastic No Smoking placard to the wall.
Stocky Agent makes a sour face, shakes his head, rolls up the
sleeves on his thick arms. He reaches across the heavy wood table, grabs
an ashtray, and clunks it down in front of me as if it were a bedpan.
“The rule doesn’t apply down here,” he says. Then, in this deep
affected voice, he adds, “Let’s get started, Mr. Moonlight. You already
know the routine. For now we just want to get to the bottom of the who,
what, wheres and hows of this train wreck.”
“You forgot the why,” I say, firing up a Marlboro Light. “You
need to know the why to establish an entire familiarity with any given
case.”
Stocky Agent does a double take, smiles. Like he knows I’m
fucking with him.
“Don’t be a dick, Dick,” he says.
I guess it’s important not to take life too seriously. He laughs. I
laugh. We all laugh. Ice officially broken. I exhale some smoke, sit back
in my chair.
They’re right, of course. I know the drill. I know it’s the truth
they’re after. The truth and almost nothing but the truth. But what they
also want is my perspective—my take on the entire Scarlet Montana
affair, from soup to peanuts. They want me to leave nothing out. I’ll start
with my on-again/off-again love affair with my boss’s wife. Maybe from
there I’ll move on to the dead bodies, my cut-up hands, the Saratoga
Springs Russians, the Psychic Fair, the heroin, the illegal organ harvesting
operation, the exhumations, the attempts on my life, the lies, deceptions
and fuck-overs galore.
As a former fulltime Albany detective, I know that nobody sees
the same thing through the same set of eyeballs. What’s important to one
person might appear insignificant or useless to another. What those
federal agents want right now inside the basement interview room is my
most reliable version of the truth—an accurate, objective truth that
separates fact from fantasy.
Theoretically speaking.
“Ask away,” I say, just as the buzzing starts up in the core of my
head.
“Just start at the beginning,” Stocky Agent requests. “We have
all night.”
Sitting up straight, I feel my right arm beginning to go numb on
me. So numb I drop the lit cigarette onto the table. The inside of my
head chimes like a belfry. Stocky Agent is staring at me from across the
table with these wide bug eyes like my skull and brains are about to pull a
JFK all over him.
But then, just as soon as it all starts, the chiming and the
paralysis subsides.
With a trembling hand, I manage to pick up the partially smoked
cigarette, exhale a very resigned, now smokeless breath and stamp the
cancer stick out.
“Everything you wanna know,” I whisper. “You want me to tell
you everything.”
“Everything you remember,” Tall Agent smiles. “If that’s at all
possible.”
Stocky Agent pulls a stick of gum from a pack in his pants
pocket, carefully unwraps the tin foil and folds the gum before stuffing it
into his mouth.
Juicy Fruit. I can smell it from all the way across the table.
By all indicators, it’s going to be a long night.
“I think I’ll take that cappuccino after all,” I say.
For the first time since entering the interview room, I feel the
muscles in my face constricting. I know without looking that my
expression has turned into something miles away from shiny happy. I’m
dead serious.

Read what critics are saying about Moonlight Falls!

“Tough, hard-boiled noir delivered with the kind of fast-paced taut action that represents the best of the genre, Vince Zandri’s Moonlight Falls gives us the kind of protagonist series are built on. “Get your protagonist up a tree and throw rocks at him” is advice given to novelists from Day One: Zandri’s character Richard Moonlight isn’t up a tree; he’s up a Sequoia and those aren’t rocks being thrown at him—they’re boulders shot out of a cannon. It’s become a cliche to say “I couldn’t put it down,” but in this case, it applies. Not knowing if his next minute might be his last to draw breath—with a bullet fragment lodged in his brain, the artery wrapped around it prohibiting its removal—the tension builds to a fever-pitch as Moonlight is surrounded by enemies all determined to deal one of two outcomes for him—either his death or his arrest for the murder of his lover, and the journey to prove his innocence and the surprise ending will absolutely enthrall readers. Don’t begin reading this at night the day before you have to work unless you have a forgiving boss who won’t mind if you show up bleary-eyed from staying up all night to read it.”

–Les Edgerton, author of Monday’s Meal and the writing text, Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go.

Vincent Zandri’s MOONLIGHT FALLS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘10 will officially begin on February 1st and end on March 26th. Please contact Dorothy Thompson at thewriterslife@yahoo.com if you are interested in hosting and/or reviewing his book during his virtual book tour. Thank you!

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