Wobble Wheel Wooley’s End of the Road: A Review

In Trey Barker’s contribution to Colin Conway’s Back Road Bobby and His Friends, Jesse is ready to leave the world behind and live off the grid. But to do that, he needs some cash. A carefully placed question or two connects him with Wobble Wheel Wooley, a man on a quest for a pile of money hidden by Handbrake Hardy.

This call-and-answer style story has two men whose paths become crossed. Jesse isn’t fussy about where his next pay day comes from, just that it comes. Wobble Wheel is on a Coronado quest for the mother of all payouts. Unpredictable, Wobble Wheel drives the story, dragging Jesse along for the right. A clean, straight-forward story, I give this 4 stars.

Dead Dead Girls: A Review

There is a lot to love in Nekesa Afia’s debut mystery Dead Dead Girls. This book is an amateur sleuth-style mystery. Our sleuth is 26-year old Louise Lovey Lloyd. A Black woman in 1920s Harlem, she works as a waitress in a café over a kinda sleezy speakeasy by day and dances her feet off in the best club in the neighborhood at night. On her way home from a late night of music and drinking, Louise and her companion Rosa Maria discover the body of a teen in the cafe’s doorway. Louise feels for the girl who reminds her of her younger self, of her younger sisters. With a spine of steel, Louise works with the New York police to go into the one place they can’t, the homes and businesses of Black New York.

Rating Dead Dead Girls on a 5-point scale against the perfect mystery, I give this 3.5 stars.

Strengths of the story. The lead character is vividly imagined and brought out on the page. You can the pride and frustration that would come with being friends with the smart and courageous woman. The setting is equally well drawn out, letting us feel the pulse of the band as Louise dances the Charleston. I simply love the language. I do not know how much research Ms. Afia did, but it was worth it. The slang is a key part of being transported to this neighborhood, at this point in time. The story is well told in the noun-verb-noun sense and is well edited, as you would expect with Berkley Prime Crime.

Where the story fell short of ideal. Ms. Afia weaves a complicated plot for her debut novel and with that intricacy comes the opportunity to make leaps in logic and leave string hanging. It is the type of story that at the end you think ‘ok, fine. That’s good.’ And then the questions start popping up. What about this and how was that managed. Beside the mystery itself, this happens with the apparent constant threat Louise is under. For readers who tend not to dissect the logic of a story, I am confident you will be delighted with this one.

Bottomline: Dead Dead Girls is for you if you like dynamic amateur sleuths and the under explored time of 1920s Harlem.

Robbing Banks with Gator Wilson: A Review

In Dave Zeltserman’s contribution to Colin Conway’s Back Road Bobby and his Friends, Jack “Gator” Wilson is living a simple life after doing time for his role in a horse track robbery. Billy Slake finds him, plying him with coffee, donuts, and an offer too good to be true.

And you know what they say about offers too good to be true.

This straightforward story is a fast, clean read. A two-character story, the play between Gator and Billy Slake rings true as anyone knows who has followed a friend into a misadventure. A solid read at three stars.

Card Shark Molly’s Last Hand: A Review

The Nikki Dolson’s Card Shark Molly’s Last Hand is the second story in Back Roads Bobby and His Friends, Colin Conway’s last edition to the 509 Crime Anthology. Molly is picking up a month’s worth of cash in one night by working as a dealer in a very private, pop-up poker game. The crowd is rough but the pot is big and Molly has plans for her share of the take. She is working the crowd as she makes the flop: a pair of eights and an ace. More money is thrown on the table. Molly flips the next card, another ace. The deadman’s hand, she realizes. And that’s went everything goes to hell.

Card Shark Molly’s Last Hand is one of those stories that slaps you in the face if you get so cocky as to assume where it is going. Nikki does a great job of dragging you through a litany of emotions – pride, fear, anger, anguish, more anger – all in twenty-one pages. It is a strong example of short story writing, made more potent by being in the hard crime genre. A 5-star review. Read this one if you are a fan of stories that keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Escape of Jimmy the Saint: A Review

The Escape of Jimmy the Saint by Frank Zafiro is the first story in Colin Conway’s BACK ROAD BOBBY AND HIS FRIENDS, a 509 Crime Anthology. Jimmy “the Saint” Sauntiago loves his 1969 Chevelle, loves to drives, loves his girlfriend…well, maybe not the last one so much. She’s pressuring him to give up his first two loves and settle down. Jimmy’s life is driving and outsmarting, outmaneuvering, and plain old out driving Deputy Shiple. That man HATES Jimmy. Then Jimmy learns Handbrake Hardy Frye, the driving legend, is making his exodus from this world (the anthology’s tie that binds). Instead of delivering his current package to his customer, Jimmy decides to take it to Handbrake, a gift befitting a legend.

This short story has all the hallmarks of a Frank Zafiro tale. The hero isn’t quite good, the story isn’t quite simple, and the ending has you reading it twice. Like all Frank’s stories, this one is for readers who prefer the gray, where life isn’t all roses and sunshine, but it’s not so bleak that there isn’t hope. Go in with an open mind, ’cause you aren’t going to guess where this one is going.

5 stars!

photo credit: American Dream Machines

One of Back Road Bobby’s Friends

Colin Conway has just released the newest anthology of his 509 universe, Back Road Bobby and his Friends. I am thrilled to have written a story for this collection titled Giddy Up Done Gone. My story is about something everyone wants but noone can buy: respect. Giddy Up is eighteen and grew up in her grandparents loving home. With her grandsparents now deceased, her family had very modest expectations for her life. In a family of mechanics and car junkies, being female kept her out of the pits. I suppose this is a coming-of-age story, but it didn’t feel like it when I was writing. It has the hallmarks of a TG Wolff story-strong characters, humor, and a healthy dose of rule breaking. Check out all the wide and varying stories in this newest edition to the 509 universe.

The Turkey Who Laid an Egg

Yesterday, I was working on a Det. Jesus De La Cruz short story for our podcast and came across an unexpected lesson is American folklore. Cruz and his now fiancée Aurora Williams (missed it? Check out Razing Stakes for the story) were visiting the American Eagle habitat at the Cleveland Metroparks zoo. I had Cruz comment to Aurora about Benjamin Franklin wanting the turkey to be the national bird, rather than the eagle. Pretending to be a good, little writer, I did a quick google and found out the story was totally

WRONG

Below are the site I explored. Here’s the story in a nutshell: Franklin and his peers were invited to submit concepts for the back of the national emblem. Franklin submitted Moses parting the Red Sea without a bird of any variety in sight. There was some consideration of the ideas but the topic was tabled. When it was picked back up, Franklin was not part of the discussion. A design was developed that featured the eagle in a pose similar to what we see on our printed bills. Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter in 1784 in which he said the eagle in the design looked more like a turkey. He then went on to talk about the unfavorable traits of the eagle and how the traits of the turkey were more inline with American values. Fast forward to November 1962, the cover of the New Yorker Magazine featured a cover with a turkey in place of the eagle and, voila, folklore was born. And there you have it!

Source Sites:

https://www.livescience.com/benjamin-franklin-turkey-national-bird

https://condenaststore.com/featured/new-yorker-november-24th-1962-anatol-kovarsky.html

https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/index.html?dod-date=620

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/american-myths-benjamin-franklins-turkey-and-the-presidential-seal-6623414/

Cover image credit: artystarty

A Lot of Something in Nothing

English is a hard language. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been speaking it for a few decades. It doesn’t matter that I’ve published books using tens of thousands of words in the language. What has me musing on this?

NOTHING

Here’s the scenario. I asked a co-worker if a project was a bonded project (def: a type of surety bond used in construction projects to protect against an adverse event that causes disruptions or financial loss.) He looked in the digital folder folder and said “Nothing is there.” And I said, “Which is different from saying ‘there is nothing.'” His statement was simply that the file was empty. The document could have existed and been misfiled or never filed, or didn’t exist because it wasn’t needed. Looking back, checking the file could have only proved if the project was bonded (because the paper would have been in the file) but could not prove that it was not a bonded project (unless we uploaded page that said “no bond needed”, which we don’t do).

Moral of the story….there’s a lot of something even in nothing.

May’s Bloody Eclipse Moon

This month is perfect for a mystery writer working to get back in her groove of releasing a newsletter with the full moon. Really, what other day is more fitting for a Wolff??

According to one of my favorite lunar websites, The Farmer’s Almanac, the moon will peak around midnight on Sunday May 15 – Monday May 16. This is going to be a special full moon because the positioning of the earth, moon, and sun will be aligned to give the moon a reddist tint, hence the term Blood Moon. The full moon also coincides will a full lunar eclipse.

It’s a common school of thought that the full moon draws out the crazy in us humans. Turns out, that is an old wives tale. Studies undertaken to draw a correlation between the moon and behavior including crimes and injuries came up empty. This was consistent across the studies. The only study that did find the full moon made a difference. Healthline.com reported on a National Institute of Health 2018 study that found that patients with Bipolar Disorder were sensitive to changes in the mood, which correlated to a change from depressive to manic states. This was a small study, like 18 people, but is interesting for the findings.

Mark your calendars to May’s Full Flower Moon! It’s going to be worth losing sleep over.

References:

Image: The Farmers Almanac

https://www.almanac.com/full-moon-may

https://www.farmersalmanac.com/full-moons-people-crazy-12157

https://www.healthline.com/health/full-moon-effects#full-moon-and-violence