Solving murders in a crime drama is tough enough, but add the challenges that relatives bring and – good grief! Bring out the stress balls!
It’s fascinating to see how detectives are played and portrayed – not just in books, but also in TV and film. Here on our Detective Tom Stone crime story blog, we feature crime fighters from the whole world of entertainment.
The popular Endeavour, a British mystery and drama that airs in the U.S. on PBS, brings us the human foibles of Inspector Morse (Shaun Evans) and Detective Thursday (Roger Allam).
In the current season, episode 2, Cartouche, that aired July 1, featured murders in the local movie theater. But the show gave us a personal glimpse of Detective Thursday’s annoyance with his brother Charlie, played by Phil Daniels.
Charlie brought his wife Paulette, played by Linette Beaumont, a good-natured woman who was a bit embarrassed at the antics of her husband and daughter Carol (Emma Rigby) who accompanies Morse on a rather awkward tour of Oxford.
Family brings depth and gives the character a chance to explore sensitivities and quirks that we hide in the workplace.
It’s a personal side that didn’t come out of Jack Webb’s Sgt Joe Friday on Dragnet whom we wrote about here or in Richard Boone’s Paladin in the 1950s western Have Gun will Travel, featured here.
In real life, we can’t avoid chatter from family or co-workers, like Morse not appreciating the banter of assistant DC George Fancy, played by Poldark actor Lewis Peek.
Entanglements are a universal problem and our Tom Stone finds his own in each of the three crime stories so far in the series—from befriending a boy in a foster care group home, to catching his daughter in a marijuana dispensary, and falling for the attorney who defends the man he’s pursuing.
It’s great to see the creators of Endeavour work these personal challenges so naturally into the story line. After all, detectives are people, too.
Peek at this overview of the first three Tom Stone stories that Don Simkovich did for CCN Sunrise in LA County’s San Gabriel Valley. And click our e-newsletter link below the video to get a free preview of Tom Stone: Day of the Dead Chapter One.
Lon Casler Bixby asks questions of his co-author Don Simkovich about his views on the Tom Stone stories. (Click here to read Lon’s interview).
More author interview links are at the end of this post.
When did you decide to become a writer and how did you know that’s what you wanted to do?
Being a crime fiction author never occurred to me. Writing about action did and in grade school, watching news reports on the Vietnam War caught my attention and I’d tune in every night before watching the game show Truth or Consequences. I wanted to be involved in significant events and that planted the desire to be a journalist and report on the events happening around me. I scribbled a few pages of notes about the Watergate trial and called it my own newspaper. But that did it. I wanted to write, interview people and make sense of the world.
My parents wrote short pieces, exploring what they could. My father, a metallurgical engineer, wrote a very good essay on surviving on a bridge (a trestle) as a freight train passed and nearly struck him and his brother.
My mother wrote various short pieces and one was published in a Sunday supplement of the Pittsburgh Press. She also wrote a very good biographical novel on the woman who founded the Daughters of the American Revolution that took her 8 years to research and write. It was her only novel.
Writing may seem to have come naturally to me but it’s been a lifetime of improving. As Hemingway says, The best writing comes from rewriting.
What prompted you to write the Tom Stone series – which is based on an original screenplay – Stone Cold?
I had written a few romance stories through a small press and decided I’d take on the challenge of writing a detective story. For the readers, you and I had produced a stage version of a 30-minute comedy script, Apartment Zero. Maybe we should write short story versions of it. And adapting Stone Cold was a chance to work together.
I felt it would let me develop as a writer in a new area.
I want readers to see there is hope—that good can come from the challenges we face and the pain we endure.
What intrigued you about the screenplay?
The Tom Stone — Anthony Angelino conflict took 3 years to finish.
It was a full-length screenplay that read fast. I liked how the characters took shape and I began seeing their traits and mannerisms. I saw the potential for exploring them in depth, especially the relationship and inherent conflict between Tom Stone and Alisha Davidson.
Were you worried about taking another writer’s vision (or story – whichever sounds better) and turning it into a novel with your own ideas and vision?
My first area of concern was that the script and character seemed “cold” to me or impersonal. I wanted to warm them up. So the challenge was staying true to the original intent of the screenplay and making it so I was personally involved.
I got 13 chapters in to the first draft and I stopped. It was September 2015 and I told Lon—that’s you—that we need a Christmas story, a quick one. You came up with a number of ideas that turned it from my thoughts of a 7,000 word story into a novella.
My need for “warmth” and personal connection shaped Chapter One of Nitty Gritty Christmas. Police give toys to kids at Christmas and I’m a dad who’s adopted his kids from the foster care system. An idea struck.
Jake pulls Tom along to hand out gifts to boys in a group home and Tom sees one boy who’s unruly and doesn’t fit in. That boy, Andrew, gets Tom’s attention. Now I’m personally invested in the story.
Fortunately, Lon, you went along with it.
What have you learned in writing the Tom Stone series?
Handling multiple points of view and sub-stories has been rewarding. We did this in Book 2, Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights, and more in Book 3 Tom Stone Day of the Dead. The Tom Stone stories was my first complete trilogy I’ve written—and I—and you—see at least one or two more books in this particular story line.
The other technique I’m improving is the cause and effect that leaves the reader hopefully wanting more. It’s how you lead up to a point in a chapter and end it with the answer to be revealed later.
What is your favorite genre of book to read? To write?
I can read multiple genres if they have strong characters that are “warm” to me—sorry to sound so artistic. I like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher character and I like romance, too. I want to find and experience the tension. Anita Shreve’s The Pilot’s Wife is a very simple story but with tension going throughout. This was what kept me turning the pages in John Grisham’s The Firm more than in his later novels. He did an incredible job creating tension with the details of a law office in Memphis.
Among my favorite stories remains James Herriot’s books from the late ‘60s and early 70s—a veterinarian from Yorkshire who wrote terrific memoirs and his experiences delivering cattle and horses and treating dogs and cats. He caught the significance of the moment and how each event impacted the people.
Real life, in other words. Oh, and I’m so sorry. I’ve just never gotten into Sci-Fi. Although, in junior high I read a story about a colony on Mars and really liked it. I think it was because the boy in the story got to skate for miles on the canals.
What are 1 or 2 things you’d like the readers to know about the Tom Stone stories?
They are real life, like you mentioned. I want them to sense the subtle humor in each one and get a feel for the characters. I hope that at the end of Book 3 Day of the Dead, the readers feel torn about Anthony Angelino and who he is as a person and what could have been for him.
I want readers to see there is hope—that good can come from the challenges we face and the pain we endure.
Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe are detectives who not only hunt down the bad guy but also protect their families.
The Tom Stone Detective Stories are thoughtful gifts for Father’s Day, birthdays, Christmas or just a special way to say “thanks, Dad.”
Detective Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe aren’t the perfect dads as we see in the novella and two novels that form the Tom Stone detective stories, where the duo stationed in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley end up chasing a small-time drug dealer who can’t shake the mob. But they care about their families and those who don’t have one.
Scroll down to enjoy samplings from each of the stories.
BOOK 1 — TOM STONE NITTY GRITTY CHRISTMAS Available on Amazon Kobo Barnes&Noble iTunes
EXCERPT TOM STONE NITTY GRITTY CHRISTMAS – CHAPTER ONE
Available on Amazon Kindle for only 99 cents.
Tom Stone Meets 6 yr old Andrew while handing out presents on Christmas Eve
Stone is divorced from his CFO wife and yet befriends a boy in a foster care group home who has no family.
A yell and scream pierced the crowd and the boy, Andrew, broke free from one of the adults and bolted toward the door.
Stone turned and in one stride caught the boy by his collar. “Hey, let’s settle down.” He knelt and looked the boy in the eye. “I want to help you. I’m a cop, you know.” He smiled. “I might have to make you have fun.”
The boy stopped, furrowed his eyebrows and touched Stone’s cheek. “You’re scratchy.”
Stone smiled. “So you’ve got an opinion, too, huh?”
Jake caught Stone’s eye with a surprised look and gave him a thumbs-up.
One of the adults came and took Andrew’s hand and led him back to his seat. The boy flailed his arms for a moment as though to prove he was still out of control. He looked up at Stone as he was being taken back to his seat. His eyes appeared both brown and green and seemed to plead for help and understanding, despite the angry arms and legs churning.
Boys were streaming up to Santa, giggling and giving the man in the red suit high five’s and then moved to get their presents. Jake motioned for Stone to come forward and help. Stone then made his way to the Christmas tree and handed out presents, but Andrew continued squirming and struggling against the staff member. Finally he went limp like he was resigned to being confined. Andrew remained at the table while the last of the boys were moving through the line. Stone set one present aside.
After everyone had gone through, except Andrew, Stone took the present and handed it to the staff member. “This is for him.”
Book 2 Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights — available on Amazon
EXCERPT FROM TOM STONE SWELTERING SUMMER NIGHTS – CHAPTER 26
Stone spends plenty of time caring for his two teenage daughters, knowing that he has to trust them to make good choices. This excerpt comes after Stone catches his daughter in a marijuana dispensary.
Stone paused and considered what was really bothering him. “Meagan. I know that a little drinking and smoking pot doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’ve seen it creep on people and it does become a big deal. It gets them off track and their lives are ruined. I mean, what should I do as a dad? It’s not an easy choice. I could just shrug my shoulders and not worry about anything, not worry about you or worry about Carly. But we wouldn’t have a relationship that way.
“It’s inside a healthy parent to want to care and I’m trying to strike a balance. I know that I shouldn’t get overbearing. But if I care too little then I’m off in my world and you’re off in yours. I don’t want that, either. So it’s easy to mess up. I mean, real easy. For me, though, this was a no-brainer. I don’t want drinking and getting high to become a routine part of your life. You mean too much to me.”
Meagan listened, seemed to think about her dad’s passion, and relented. “Okay, Dad. I get it. I don’t like it. But I get it. You’re trying to keep me safe.”
“Trying. Without making you too angry.”
“Yeah, well. I can’t guarantee that I always want to go along with the program.”
“Understood.” Stone nodded as a bite of ice cream slipped off his spoon and onto the floor. Silver lapped it up like a frog zapping a bug.
“But all of this is your way of saying that you want the best for me, right?” Meagan sounded resigned.
“Yippee.” Meagan’s matter-of-fact tone was ripe with sarcasm. “Okay. You don’t want me smoking pot or getting drunk?”
“Should I ask if that’s something you did in high school?”
“I had my moments. Like you’ve had yours. But they were only moments. And on one occasion I came home after having too much to drink and stumbled through the screen door in Grandpa’s house. Ripped a big hole in it and fell on my face in the entryway.”
“Grandpa didn’t say anything except ‘Get to bed.’ He told me later that he was both amused and saddened when he watched me crawl up the stairs. Said he had a weak, sick feeling as he realized he had no control in my decision-making. Even though I was hung over, he still got me up at six a.m. the next morning to help build a retaining wall in the yard.”
“So you’re not trying to control me?”
“No. I’m trying to guide you.”
“Honestly, Dad. Don’t worry. Look. I’m sorry I got you so upset. I just feel like I’m smart enough to handle myself.”
“I’m sure you are. But experience gives a different perspective. Let’s agree on this, Meagan. I’ll give you freedom to make your choices. Drugs of all kinds are off limits. Okay?”
“And if you have questions or concerns then come and ask me. I’ll treat you fairly. I love you and I want the best for you.”
Meagan nodded. “Sounds fair, Dad. Have fun tonight.”
“Thanks. I’m not going to stay out all night,” said Stone.
“Oh, and one more thing.”
“What’s that, kiddo?”
“Since you’re going out with Alisha, try not to get shot again.”
“Oh come on, it was just a graze.” Stone rolled his eyes.
Meagan smiled. “By the way, I really don’t mind watching Andrew. He’s a bit strange sometimes but I like him.”
EXCERPT FROM TOM STONE DAY OF THE DEAD CHAPTER 30 – LATE JUNE / EARLY JULY 2018 RELEASE
This excerpt focuses on a father and daughter who cared for a relative who had an abusive father and mother.
A man stood behind her on a stepstool with a screwdriver, looking closely at a window frame. He turned around and spoke softly. “Can’t beat the prices or quality.” He laid a hand gently on her shoulder. “Hey, she’ll be okay.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Leonna patted him, smiled, and then turned back to the detectives. “It’s a shame, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Stone agreed.
“Sara has overcome so much and now this. Ending up in the hospital again. She say anything to you?”
“No, she wouldn’t talk,” said Stone. “I was hoping you could fill us in.”
“I didn’t know where she was for the past few days. And then she shows up here, all beat up. Looked terrible. I drove her to the emergency room and she was holding her sides, saying Angel had beat the hell out of her. They admitted her right away.” Leonna paused. “Broken ribs, internal bleeding. She’s not doing good and they’re just keeping her comfortable.”
“What kind of man does that to someone?” said Leonna’s father, Robert Alvarez. “So sad.”
“Angel’s no better than what Sara had with her own parents.” Leonna took a deep breath. “An abusive father, drinking and drugs. Her mom and dad were always fighting.”
Robert set his screwdriver aside. “I hated my brother-in-law. I tried to get help for my sister soon after Sara was born, but it didn’t work. While growing up, she’d live with us for weeks at a time. Moving in when things got terrible and then moving back out when it got better.”
Stone first met Robert, Sara’s uncle, a couple of years earlier. Stone and Jake were investigating Angel and came across Sara at her apartment. She panicked and ran into the street where she was struck by a car. Robert was sitting dutifully with her when Stone visited her for questioning in the hospital.
“It’s a mystery why in God’s universe that some people like Sara are afflicted with abuse,” said Robert. “Just can’t escape it.”
ABOUT DETECTIVE TOM STONE — INFLUENCED BY HIS GRANDFATHER
Tom Stone is a modern-day detective serving in Los Angeles and yet he embodies the spirit of his grandfather who set an example that pursuing good is the right thing to do.
The gift of reading lasts beyond the book and we hope that you enjoy each of the Tom Stone stories since they show the importance of family and the tragic consequences when family life flies out of control.
Hi! Don here. Here’s a crime fiction author interview with my co-author of the Tom Stone stories, Lon Casler Bixby.
The trilogy got its start based on a screenplay that Lon had written; he’s a photographer with a film production background. Of course, the books changed and I never asked Lon his thoughts on moving from screen to publishing. So I grilled him hard!
What prompted you to write the screenplay Stone Cold?
I was writing a lot of different screenplays in different genres. Comedy, horror, sci-fi. One night while sleeping I had an idea for a Detective Story. I woke up, sat in front of the computer and Stone Cold appeared–so to speak.
Are detective stories — crime stories something you particularly like or are drawn to?
Yes and no. I wouldn’t just go to the bookstore and buy a book. I do like the mystery and the thriller. Not detective per se. I like the ones that have a twist like a series about a Vampire detective, but, they have to be realistic and have personality and not be stereotypical.
What made you decide to turn the screenplay into a novel?
I had written many different and optioned a couple, so instead of them gathering dust in an agent’s office, I turned them into novels. I figured that was a much easier way to get them seen by an audience. The novel gets the story in front of people. That’s the point. Give people something to read.
Were you afraid of losing control in the process?
Not at all. Partnering with you, Don, is easy — you’re somebody I trust. Instincts, judgement, not like giving it some movie studio where they’ll take it and change it. I gained so much more. I’ve let go of some of the story because you have a lot of great ideas that became the story. A lot of gaining instead of loss.
How do you feel about the trilogy being so different than the original screenplay?
I don’t know if it is so different. We took the screenplay and made it so much better. The screenplay was good, but flat and one dimensional, maybe even stereotypical. But we built on that foundation and gave it life.
What are 1 or 2 things you’d like the readers to know about the Tom Stone stories?
I’d like the readers to know it’s not just a typical detective story. We brought life to the characters by making them realistic, and relatable to the reader.
We deal with a lot of subjects including family values, child abuse, spousal abuse, organized crime, and the use of medical marijuana. We bring a lot of reality into the story along with humor — some of it might be subtle but we bring it out.
It’s not the typical straightforward detective story – it’s much fuller.
Try out a free preview Chapter 1 of Tom Stone Day of the Dead– it’s easy.
Discovering the Criminal in a Crime Story — Al Pacino Step into the movie Scarface. It confirmed our own view of Anthony Angelino–the wanna-be drug lord who Tom Stone chases in Book 1 Nitty Gritty Christmas; Book 2 Sweltering Summer Nights; and Book 3 Day of the Dead.