Category Archives: Characters

Noir Detective Mystery “Hot Sinatra” by Axel Howerton an Award Finalist

THIS POST IS FOR READERS:

The big news is that Hot Sinatra by Axel Howerton is one of five finalists for the Arthur Ellis Award: BEST FIRST NOVEL. For a complete listing of finalists for this prestigious award, please visit the Crime Writers of Canada website.

Why am I so thrilled about this? First, I’m a fan. I absolutely loved Hot Sinatra as a reader. Second, I had the privilege of co-editing this book, including doing the final polishing edit. Third, I had the honor of publishing it for Evolved Publishing.

Okay… I know what some of you are thinking: “Oh sure, Diamond is talking about this because he edited and published the book.” Fair enough, BUT… seriously, I LOVED this book as a reader. I’ve long been a fan of the likes of Mickey Spillane, Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, and others of that ilk. So when I first read Hot Sinatra with an eye toward publishing it, I did so as a reader with awfully high standards. And yes, Axel Howerton’s book passed the test.

I categorized this post under “Readers” and “Characters.” Why the “Characters” category? Simple, Hot Sinatra is one great, tasty, funny, compelling character stew! Not only is the main character, Moss Cole, a lot of fun, but much of the supporting cast is just a riot. You’re going to love some of these characters. In particular, many readers have commented positively on Manlove and Kickerdick – a pair of knee-breakers unlike any you’ve encountered before, believe me.

I enthusiastically recommend Hot Sinatra, but if you’re still in doubt, just sample the portions that sites like Amazon and Smashwords offer. That should convince you. Of course, you can also see what other reviewers have said.

Don’t miss out. Grab your copy today.

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Available at Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords.

Oh… and did I mention that it’s also available in French, Italian and Spanish? Yeppers.

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A Shadow on the Mind, A Blemish on the Soul

(Note: I first wrote this several weeks ago as part of a blog hop I participated in. It appears for the first time here.)

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”

That classic line from the 1930’s serialized radio program, The Shadow, functions as something of a theme for much of my writing. This is particularly true of my novel, Forgive Me, Alex. It also guides a fair portion of what I read.

For me, great literature has always been about great characters, and if I’m going to dig really deep into a character, the author needs to take me… well, really deep inside that character. I want to know what’s in that character’s mind, his heart, his soul. I want to know what scares him, what makes him nervous, what excites him, what motivates him.

Now, to be clear, this requires a level of authenticity that will bring the character to life in a realistic way. However, it needn’t be all puppy dogs and daisies. Let’s face it: there are some real sickos out there. But what makes them sick?

If you heard that a neighborhood kid was stealing people’s pets and first torturing them, then dismembering them, how would you react? Would you say he’s sick? Would you wonder how anyone could even think to do such a thing? Would you fear letting your dog out? Would you call that kid… evil? Yes, I used the E-word. So many today seem to want to hide from the possibility that true evil exists, to explain it away as something else, to make it not a cause, but a mere symptom. Why?

People fascinate me. Specifically, the inner workings of the human brain fascinate me. After all, as human beings, our brains are what separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. That brain is complex, mystifying, and still largely misunderstood. Indeed, in the medical sciences, the brain is truly the final frontier. For all the extraordinary things they’ve learned about how the brain works in recent years, they’ve still barely scratched the surface.

Human emotions and psychology are particularly difficult to understand. How many times have you scratched your head at another person’s actions, wondering what in the world they must have been thinking, or feeling? Now, imagine a person who has no feelings. Would he be easier to understand? Perhaps. Would he also scare the bejesus out of you? Probably. As well he should.

Let’s return to that kid above who likes to torture and kill the beloved Fido and Mittens. The mere thought of such acts might bring you to tears, turn your stomach, and make you want to grab a baseball bat and pay that kid a visit. For that kid, however, ripping Mittens limb from limb is merely a… curiosity. As a psychopath, he doesn’t process emotions the way you and I do. (Please tell me you’re not curious what it would be like to tear Fido limb from limb.)

Why doesn’t he feel in the same way we do? The cause could be physical, environmental, or… nothing at all. Dare I say it? Some people are just evil.

It’s hard to understand, and it draws us in, perhaps out of our own sick curiosity, natural though it may be. Why is the TV show Criminal Minds, which brings us a weekly parade of some of the worst sickos in our midst, so popular? Setting aside the obvious—great cast, solid acting, exceptional writing—might it be because we’re all, at some level, fascinated by how a human being can do what we ourselves couldn’t even imagine doing, at least not without puking our guts out and collapsing into a weeping mess?

And might that sicko—that twisted, despicable, unrepentant psychopath—make a great character? Oh yeah, baby! Come on… tell the truth: you love reading about that kid who’s sharpening his knife right now, even as he’s eyeing Fido in the neighbor’s yard. At least, you love hating reading about that kid. Or is it hate loving?

Well… let me introduce you to Mitchell Norton, the devil. http://bit.ly/EPbhFMA

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What makes a great character in fiction?

I love books that give me rich, real characters. They must appear as breathing, walking, talking people who live on the page. Do not give me plastic, shallow clichés, please.

Let us take, for example, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s singular masterpiece. Is he an ordinary man engaged in an extraordinary act? Is he an extraordinary man doing what such men do? Is he a simple smalltown lawyer, an easy-going, unobtrusive gentleman hoping to raise his kids well and survive as a single father?

Yes. To all of those, yes. He is a rich, deep character for which we as readers can peel back layer after layer.

Here are some more of my favorite characters:

Santiago, the old Cuban fisherman from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Alessandro Giuliani, the World War I vet from Mark Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War.

Hawkeye from James Fennimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Owen Meany, the diminutive but strong protagonist in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Jack Reacher from Lee Child’s series of thriller novels.

Myron Bolitor from Harlan Coben’s series of mystery-thrillers.

Odd Thomas from Dean Koontz’s multi-book series.

George Smiley from John Le Carre’s Cold War spy thrillers.

These are just a few, but each of them offers a rich emotional and intellectual depth that brings them to life. What do they look like? I don’t know. I don’t care. How they look is not something that grabs most readers by the throat and compels them to learn more about the characters. We want to know what really makes them tick.

As an author, I seek to create just such characters. Readers will judge whether I’ve succeeded, but early feedback for Forgive Me, Alex looks positive.

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