Eli Sharpe is #1. . .and FREE!

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Exciting news item #1: “Pink Elephant,” an Eli Sharpe mystery, is FREE on Kindle right now, AND it has reached #1 on one of Amazon’s bestseller lists. Please, go download this fast-paced story involving a stuffed pink elephant, drugs, and a bad guy named Mr. Spoon immediately. (Thank you in advance for leaving reviews on Amazon!)

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Exciting news item #2: Ed, Not Eddie (Eli Sharpe #3) is out today and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Only $4.95 on Kindle or Nook, $14.95 for paperback. This go round, Eli Sharpe is tasked with figuring out who is sending death threats to a hotshot female knuckleball pitcher in rural Cook, South Carolina. It’s good. I promise. So buy it and read it and review it.

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Exciting news item #3: The Kindle version of Split to Splinters (Eli Sharpe #2) is only .99 all throughout the month of April. That’s right: you can get a brilliantly-written, highly-entertaining piece of literature for less than a dollar. AND, if you’ve already purchased the paperback, you can get the Kindle version for FREE! Just get as a gift for someone else who hasn’t read it. Or read it again on a different format. Just get it, pretty please.

Book Review of DEADLY DUNES by E. Michael Helms

deadly dunesOnly $4.95 on Kindle and $14.95 for paperback!

Multi-million dollar real estate deals. A priceless map drawn by 16th century explorers. Coded messages in Spanish and English. Femme fatales and callous businessmen. Snipers and lying women. Suicide and murder. Sex and intrigue. Like a complex stew, there are many layers to Deadly Dunes, the third installment in the highly-entertaining Mac McClellan series, and although I greedily consumed this mystery in one sitting, I’d recommend slowing down, savoring the many flavors.

The setup: McClellan is hired to investigate the alleged suicide of an archeology professor, who just so happens to have stumbled across a map from Hernando de Soto’s 1539 exploration of a place called Five Mile Island, an idyllic spot on the coast of Florida. Little does McClellan know that the map will draw him into the always dangerous world of big money real estate development, and before long, he’s embroiled in yet another complex web of lies, money, and murder. The only question is: can McClellan, a retired Marine turned P.I., discover the truth, thwart the bad guys, and remain in one piece?

This is a solid mystery with plenty of red herrings and double-crossings to keep the reader guessing until the end. But, as always, the thing I enjoyed the most was Mac McClellan. A drinker of Budweiser, an avid fisherman, a man’s man with a sarcastic tongue and a secret chivalrous streak, McClellan has quickly become one of my favorite P.I.s, and I look forward to his next adventure. Highly recommended.

Alphabet Land Official Release

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Alphabet Land, my first noir crime thriller featuring the problem-solver The Rook, is out today! Pick up the Kindle version ($4.99) or paperback ($14.95) here on Amazon. For fans of Barnes & Noble, go here, or if you prefer, buy it from Books-a-Million, my former employer while in grad school, here. And, of course, you can purchase my book from IndieBound, too.

I’m pretty proud of this book, and I believe readers will have a tough time putting it down once they start reading. . .and when you do finish reading it,  please write a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and/or anywhere else you see fit. Reviews need not be long, but if you want to gush and ramble on and on and on about my brilliance as a novelist, well, I won’t stand in your way.  But seriously, for small press authors, reviews are very important, so thank you in advance for taking the time.

Enjoy!

Max

Read Excerpt of ALPHABET LAND

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Attention fans of noir/hardboiled fiction: click here to read the first chapter of my forthcoming crime thriller Alphabet Land.  If you like it, pre-order the paperback ($14.95) or Kindle ($3.99) here. Or head over to Barnes & Noble and get it here.

Advanced praise for Alphabet Land: 

“Alphabet Land is as coarse and gritty as Carolina noir can get. Max Everhart has a new big fan.”
—JOHN VORHAUS, author of The California Roll 

“Everhart has skillfully put together a fresh, tight tale that juggles the story of multiple damaged goods characters that collide face-first on a chunk of dirt called Alphabet Land. Crime story goodness that’s gritty, pulpy, tragic, even funny at times and rips through pages like lightning.”
—MIKE McCRARY, author of Remo Went Rogue and Getting Ugly

“Alphabet Land, decrepit neighborhood on the wrong side of the bridge in Clyde, South Carolina. A bridge separating “haves” from “have nots,” opulence from squalor, justice from injustice. Meet the Rook, product of Alphabet Land, casket-maker and “problem-solver” by trade. Call him vigilante, or Robin Hood—the Rook lives by his own code and his word is his bond. Max Everhart’s mystifying hero is determined to stop the lustful power mongers from both sides of the bridge before greed destroys all hope for the hood’s people. Hang onto your hat, because you’re in for one hell of a non-stop ride through the dark and violent streets of Alphabet Land!”
—E. MICHAEL HELMS, author of the  Mac McClellan Mystery series

“Alphabet Land is a crooked little concoction of hard luck, urban decay, and vigilante style justice. In this fast-paced urban noir, Everhart introduces the Rook, a chess playing, coffin-building, monosyllabic badass, who’s hellbent on pushing back the rising tide of corruption in his city no matter what it takes. Highly recommended!”

–John Mantooth, author of The Year of the Storm and Shoebox Train Wreck

Favorite Novels of 2015

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When combing through the list of books I’ve read this year, these five really lingered, got under my skin, stuck in my head. . .and stayed there.  If you haven’t read any of these, you should as well as the other books I’ve reviewed on this site (check archives). But, alas, these are my favorites.

  1. Dear American Airlines, Jonathan Miles. Bennie Ford, a failed poet turned translator, gets stuck at the airport while on his way to his estranged daughter’s lesbian wedding. An acerbic, heartbreakingly unflinching autobiographical letter to (yup!) American Airlines follows. This inventive play on the traditional novel form is howlingly funny, dangerously insightful, and, my favorite, sneakily soulful.
  2. The Perfect Son, Barbara Claypole White. After his wife and super-mom Ella is hospitalized indefinitely by a sudden heart attack, Felix Fitzwilliam, an OCD financial geek with zero patience, must, for the first time in his seventeen years as a father, become a real parent to their son Harry, who, aside from having a high IQ and a perfect SAT score, suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome. This one was a pure reading pleasure, mostly because of the careful and touching portrayal of all the characters, especially Harry.  The difficult relationship between the father and son really resonated with me, and I was moved by the surprising, yet inevitable ending of the novel.
  3. The Land of Steady Habits, Ted Thompson. Anders Hill, an empty-nester living in Connecticut, blows up his cushy life by divorcing his wife and opting for a small condo instead. Hilarity–and humility–ensues. Maybe even some personal growth. This book is a modern day Rabbit, Run, but, in my opinion, funnier.
  4. Outline, Rachel Cusk. This one, more than any other book I read this year, snuck up on me. A friend recommended it to me, I read the synopsis and wasn’t really excited. I read it, anyway, and wow. . .Essentially, it’s about a woman flying to Greece to teach a creative writing class.  That’s it.  But really, it’s about observation, listening–really listening.  It’s also a master class in storytelling as the protagonist reveals next to nothing about herself, and yet I was riveted the whole time.  Not a great description, I know, and yes, some readers–namely, impatient ones–will give up within a page or two, but if you read on, if you think about what you’re reading, you will be rewarded.
  5. Rumrunners, Eric Beetner. The plot: Webb McGraw, an aging rumrunner, is given a lucrative pick-up-and-drop-off gig by Hugh Stanley, who presides over a criminal empire “running anything and everything illegal.” Used to driving American muscle cars, McGraw enlists the help of a long-haul trucker to drive the eighteen-wheeler, which, of course, turns out to be a huge mistake. McGraw gets highjacked, barely escaping with his hide in tack, but now he’s faced with a dilemma: run and hide, or go back to Hugh Stanley and admit failure? This is a well-written pot boiler brimming with good dialogue, memorable characters, and thrills on every page.

Guest Blog: M. Ruth Myers

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WHEN MYSTERY MEETS HISTORY, SPEED COUNTS

M. Ruth Myers

A mystery writer has to juggle a few more elements than the regular novelist. Set it in the past, and the writer needs to keep even more in the air to avoid painful goose eggs on the head. Here’s what goes up and how to keep it aloft. (Feel free to blow smoke in my face and tell me my story doesn’t check out. I’ve been grilled before)

Any good novel needs certain basics — plot, pacing, character, dialog – skillfully done and in a balance to keep the reader reading. A mystery, in addition, must have clues and red herrings woven through those basics, sometimes sliding by unnoticed, other times producing an “Ah-hah! I’ll bet I know whodunit!” reaction. Writing a historical mystery calls for an additional set of elements which, like clues, must be worked in without slowing the story.

Some of those elements are ones found in any historical novel. If you’re thinking clothing styles, technology and jargon of the era, as well as actual historical events and personages, give yourself a gold star. Then consider additional ones which are particularly important to a historical MYSTERY where people are followed, eliminating a suspect may hinge on the time required to get from Point A to Point B, detectives interface with police and life-or-death chases are known to occur. For starters:

* Streets. Which have vanished or appeared or changed direction between your time period and the present? Certain types of mystery, such as private eye yarns and noir, characteristically tell the route the detective is taking when following someone or being followed — or thinking through the fastest way to get somewhere. A writer can locate a business or house on a fictitious street, or better still, refer to it as “just off” (fill in name of actual street), but keep it anchored to real places in order to give the historical authenticity readers expect.

* When unincorporated areas around a city were incorporated as separate towns or villages. If a suspect lives there, and your detective is going to follow or question him, best know how to refer to the area. Also, differences in jurisdiction might come into play.   Believe me, someone who has lived in the area or is a history buff will point it out if you slip.

* Changes in locations of government buildings, jails and police stations. Even an amateur sleuth may have occasion to visit such a place, so make sure buildings haven’t wandered.

* Changes in laws and speed limits. Some race cars of the late 1930s, when my Maggie Sullivan series opens, could go 100 mph or more. However the speed limit, even on U.S. highways, was 35 mph in most states.

* The attitudes and world-view of people in your chosen time period. This is far too often violated. It seems to me that writers are especially likely to attribute overly modern attitudes to female characters, presumably to make them more appealing to contemporary readers.

What forensic methods were available at the time? Were they widely used?

You may recall I said this information needs to be threaded through the mystery itself. If you periodically dump in paragraph upon paragraph, you stop the action cold. A historical MYSTERY is first and foremost a mystery. Maintaining pace is crucial.

Here are some ways I’ve approached it.

Tough Cookie, the second Maggie Sullivan mystery, opens with the PI in her office. She’s playing jacks with spare slugs for her .38 because: It beat trudging through slush and ice from Dayton’s last snowfall to spend three cents on the Daily News only to learn Herr Hitler was still bamboozling leaders in Europe. We get a sense of time (which becomes more specific later), of the media of the day, and of prices. Just as a new case walks in.

Later in the same book, as the case is starting to break, she waylays a photographer pal from the evening paper to ask him the fastest route to a town between Dayton and Cincinnati:

“Scenic or speed?”

“Speed.”

“State route, then. The national’s better in places, but it swings west so far you lose time cutting back over. Speed limit’s thirty-five on both, so there’s nothing to even out the extra distance.”

“It entered my mind I might risk forty if I took the US route.”

“Adds lots of time if you get a ticket. Or blow a gasket.”

It sounded like the voice of experience.

In Don’t Dare a Dame, Maggie wants to call her client to warn her to expect the police: Going back to the office was faster than finding a pay phone.

Historical details need to become mere threads in the mystery itself. What’s the fast food of the detective’s time? What kind of lodgings does he or she have? Does he walk to appointments like Anna Castle’s Tom Clarady? Hire a horse cab like Susanne Alleyn’s Aristide Ravel? Or does she drive a DeSoto like Maggie Sullivan?

If you’re a mystery fan who hasn’t tried any with a historical setting, try some. You might enjoy them. If you favor historical novels, sample a few that are mysteries as well. You might discover new treats. Those of us who write them think the combination is as satisfying as tea and crumpets… or gin and tonic.

 

Early Praise for ED, NOT EDDIE (Eli Sharpe #3)

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Thanks to Jack Magnus at Readers’ Favorite for a five-star review of Ed, Not Eddie. 

Here’s the full-text:

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Ed, Not Eddie: An Eli Sharpe Mystery is a private investigator mystery novel written by Max Everhart. Eli’s been called to investigate a series of threatening letters that had been received by Ed Leviner, a collegiate knuckleball pitcher who is being seriously considered by the major leagues. While she doesn’t seem all that concerned about the letters, her father, Leland, is, and Eli is working at his behest. The small town atmosphere of Cook County, South Carolina is a far cry from Eli’s urban haunts in Asheville, North Carolina, his adopted hometown, and the more Eli hears about the entangled relationships between the possible suspects, the more he is convinced that this small town harbors a dangerous person who seems bent on thwarting Ed’s major league career, even if they have to kill her to do it. Major league baseball is a bittersweet memory for the private eye, whose own chances at bat were destroyed by his alcoholism. Eli’s determined to make sure Ed gets her turn.

Max Everhart’s private investigator mystery novel, Ed, Not Eddie: An Eli Sharpe Mystery, is fast-paced, exciting and filled with twists and turns. This is the first Eli Sharpe Mystery that I’ve read; however, the author included enough background information to allow me to enjoy this book on its own. Everhart’s characters are complex and authentic, especially Sharpe and his mentor and friend, Ernest Carpenter, but the author makes each and every character seen in this compelling and gritty story stand out in full relief. The plot is first-rate, and I particularly enjoyed the ongoing references to the fictional private eye Jim Rockford and the classic noir mystery writers. Then there’s Ed, the main star of the entire tale, whose story reads like a psychological thriller; one that I’ll be puzzling over for some time. I had a marvelous time reading this book and intend to catch up with the previous books in the series. Ed, Not Eddie is most highly recommended.

 

Quick Writing Tips: On Shifting Perspectives

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Writing a novel with shifting narrative perspectives is good fun–for the author and the reader.  The author gets a chance to really develop characters and voices, while the reader gets to experience the story from multiple perspectives. Some really great novels have shifting narrative perspectives. . .Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash, and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, to name but three.

My forthcoming crime thriller Alphabet Land has three different narrators, and it got me thinking about some “rules” for multiple narrative perspectives. I came up with four, if ever you’re looking to try your hand at this.

  1. Stay with one perspective for an entire chapter. And when you do this, make sure to establish which character you’re following in the very first paragraph, the first sentence preferably. Otherwise, you risk alienating/confusing the reader, which is quick way to get him or her to give up on your book.
  2. Move the story forward with every narrative shift. This means, of course, that the plot should progress with each new chapter, but, perhaps less obviously, the characters–all of them–need to evolve right along with the story. Doing that will only serve to increase the tension, and keep the reader hooked.
  3. If using third person narrators, you must remain consistent. For example, if you allow the reader access to one of your narrator’s internal dialog, then you need to do that for all other narrators as well. Another example: if you include very little backstory for one narrator, and instead, rely on action and/or dialog to develop the character (which, as a writer, I recommend, and as a reader I prefer), then do that for all other narrators, too. Ditto style, tone, syntax, pacing, etc. (Note: if you’re using first person when writing with multiple narrators. . .all bets are off.

Bottom line, writing in multiple perspectives is a great way to challenge yourself as a writer, and it can be a deeply satisfying experience for a reader. If you have any other good novels that use this technique, drop me a line. Would love to hear from you.

 

Nice blurb for ED, NOT EDDIE

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Elena Hartwell, author of the forthcoming mystery ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO, wrote a nice blurb for me. Here it is.

“Max Everhart writes a great story with the twists and turns required for a solid mystery, but the home run in Ed, Not Eddie is his ability to craft dynamite characters. From the wisecracking protagonist Eli Sharpe to the walk-on characters with only a single line, Everhart invents a unique voice for everyone. The small town of Cook, South Carolina, and its division III College, are abuzz with the potentially history-making Ed Leviner. But becoming the first woman to pitch for the majors isn’t the only obstacle dogging Ed (never call her Eddie!). First, she has to live through the big game at the school. Hired to find out if the death threats to Ed are real, Eli soon finds himself embroiled in all the complications of a small town. Sex, drugs, corruption, and baseball make their way into a plot that keeps you guessing. If this is your first foray into the Eli Sharpe mystery series, Ed, Not Eddie will have you scrambling to catch up with books one and two.”

—Elena Hartwell, author of the Eddie Shoes Mystery series

Book Review: One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell

 

Attention mystery fans hungering for the good stuff: One Dead, Two to Go is a full course buffet. Infidelity, murder, and kidnapping are all on the menu, but the main course is Eddie Shoes (great name!), who is an engaging, resourceful, and tough female P.I. Throw in her poker-playing, Mafia-connected, breaking-and-entering mother named Chava and a pot-boiler of a plot, and I finished this book with a full belly, yet starving for more Eddie Shoes adventures. The writing is cinematic and vivid, the characters well-drawn, but the dynamic between Eddie and Chava, which reminded me fondly of Cagney and Lacey, is what makes the story. Fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich should definitely check out One Dead, Two to Go. Recommended.

Note: I was given a free copy of this book by Camel Press in exchange for an honest review. One Dead, Two to Go is available for preorder here.