Crime Story Book Review: An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt

Scott Pratt’s debut crime novel in 2008

This story is a smash hit by an independent crime author. I was browsing Amazon and I’m not sure how I came across it, but I did, impressed by the volume of positive reviews.

Joe Dillard is a Tennessee lawyer who’s fed up with the system and defending the guilty. But when a preacher is murdered after visiting a strip club, a dancer is accused and Dillard sees his chance to defend—an innocent client.




The cover is humble and straightforward. Almost bland, but it works. The symbols of justice are clear.

The Characters

People in the story are more important to me than the plot. They have to work together, of course, and Pratt does a fine job of weaving Joe Dillard in and out of the main story defending the dancer, Angel, while being comforted by his wife, nearly losing his life, and tackling cases that he really wants to give up.

The Book Description on Amazon says the dancer is a “beautiful and mysterious woman.” In a way she is. She’s terribly shy and has been terribly hurt in her own past.

The intriguing characters included Erlene Barlow, the owner of the strip club. She was outgoing and caring about her girls. Pratt did well not just painting the dancers with a broad-brush stroke.

Another was Johnny Wayne, a killer who showed no remorse.

A character that bothered my was Junior Tester, the son of the slain preacher. Junior was a prison chaplain and hated how Dillard made his father out to be a hypocrite. Junior did some Bible-sounding quoting but it was nonsensical and just didn’t have truth in it.

The southern disgruntled lawyer is not an easy act to write since an author can give in to stereotypes. Pratt didn’t. He steered it in an entertaining way with believable characters.

The ending portion of the story was terrific.

I look forward to reading Book 2 in the Joe Dillard series.

We also invite you to discover Detective Tom Stone and his pursuit of wanna be drug lord Anthony Angelino. Visit our Books page.



Discovering the criminal in a crime story: Al Pacino

A good crime story reveals the humanity of the criminal …

… and that’s what readers will discover with Anthony Angelino in our Tom Stone detective stories. We see in him a bit of Al Pacino’s Tony Montana from the movie Scarface.

Pacino Scarface Scene

Angelino developed from a quiet, elusive figure in Book 1 Tom Stone: Nitty Gritty Christmas to more of an entrepreneur shaking the mob in Book 2 Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights.

And in Book 3, Tom Stone Day of the Dead, his girlfriend Sara has dreams of living a quiet, family life and would love for him to do something—normal.

So why do we see a bit of Tony Montana in Angelino?

Scarface was not an easy movie to watch, but it was gripping. Al Pacino’s character has big dreams but unfortunately it’s through the criminal life. He sees others who have made it big and he knows he can do the same. He’s willing to sacrifice others for all the wrong reasons.

A memorable part of the movie was when Montana visited his mother and sister as we see in this YouTube clip. His mother knows what’s up. Below the clip is an excerpt from Anthony Angelino speaking with his girlfriend Sara.

Much of the world around us can look bright and shiny and we don’t realize how deadly it really is. Somehow we think we’re invincible. And maybe we’re too late in understanding what’s really important.

Tony Montana lived and fought for—?

It’s a question that’s worth pondering.

Why do people invest their lives in pursuing money when it’s fraught with danger?

Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights Cover
Can Angelino escape the mob’s clutches?



“What is going on?” [Sara] sounded like she was fighting to control her panic.

“Just leave me alone.” Angel looked in a mirror on the wall behind the counter and touched the cut. He winced. “Damn.”

“Angel let’s get out of here. Close it up, sell it off. Let’s leave LA.”

“And go where? And do what?”

“Here, let me look at that.” Sara reached her hands like she wanted to hold his face, but he slapped her away.

“My father took a bullet as a policeman in Yucatan to protect the mayor down there. It was a war between the cops and the drug lords. And with the help of the CIA, the cops ran the drug cartel out of town.” He shook his head. “Can you believe it? The cops actually won.

“But the mayor had other ideas. He just took over, formed his own cartel, and stuffed his pockets with all the dollars earned on the backs of cocoa farmers. Yeah, the drug lords did more for the community than the elected officials. And I knew then what I would do. Earn lots of money and give back. Sure, I could sell everything and run. And do what?”

Sara mumbled. “Sell cars.”

“Sell cars?” Angel laughed. “How about horses and buggies?”

“Angel.” She motioned to his nose and forehead. “What are they going to do next? Kill you?”

“They could have killed me a long time ago. They’re smart. They let me do the hard work and then come in and think they’re going to suck the profits away from me. I know more than they do, Sara. You’ll see.” He held her, kissed her on the forehead and his problems seemed to disappear for a moment until the front door opened.

Detective Tom Stone entered. He greeted Angelino and Sara with a half-smile. “Well, how about this?”

Angelino couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His first instinct was to strike out, but he stayed behind the counter and forced a casual tone.

“Yes. How about it? Good morning, Detective. To what do I owe the pleasure? Or are you here to find something to help you chill out?”

“If I did, this is the last place I’d look.”

Angel smiled. “Well, look anyway. There’s a lot of variety. Shatter or some crumble and if you want weed, we only carry the best like King Moses OG. I just need to see your medical ID card first.”

Stone ignored the comment and nodded at Sara. “How are you?”

“Fine,” she replied.

He had been impressed how she calmly gave her testimony during the hearings.

“Still making bad choices, I see.” He glanced around the shop. “Impressive.”

“Thank you.” Angelino beamed. “You should open up one of these places. You’d make more money in a single month than you would in a year being a detective.”

“Hey, I may not make a lot of money, but I got a little something for you,” said Stone.

“Oh, nice. What is it? Another false arrest?”

Stone smirked, reached into his pocket, and tossed a gumball to Angelino who caught it and popped it into his mouth.

“Mmm, tasty.” He blew a bubble.

Stone looked closely at Angelino. “You’re looking a little banged up.”

“Uh, yeah. Cut myself shaving.”

Stone smiled. “On your nose? And your forehead?”

“Shit happens. Life is funny that way.” He spit the gumball into the trashcan. “They lose their flavor too quickly.”

“How about that? I got it from one of your machines.”

“What do you expect for twenty-five cents?”

Stone looked at the shelves and surveyed the various flavors of weed. “I see you don’t have vending machines here.”

“Of course not.”

“Angel, what are you doing?”

“Making money while at the same time helping people.”

“This is illegal.”

Angelino responded. “Nothing illegal here. Everything’s on file. After all, this is a not-for-profit cooperative sanctioned by none other than the fucking City of Los Angeles.”

The Mercedes pulled into the front parking lot. What the hell?

Stone took his time browsing while outside Wu got out of the car and made his way to the store. Angelino kept a gun in his desk. Maybe this was the time to do away with both of them at once. He could only wish.

Sara looked outside and then spoke to Stone. “Nice seeing you again. I have work to do. I’ll be in the back.”

“You take care of yourself, Sara.” Stone sounded sincere.

“Of course.” She went to the back.

Work-in-progress update: Tom Stone Day of the Dead — Final Editing

We’ve not tamed the criminals in the crime fiction tale Tom Stone Day of the Dead. But we have tamed missing pieces, wayward commas, and some key chapters. Lon and I are pleased to announce that we are in the final editing stages for Book 3 of this particular series.

Starting today, we began reading version 4, Chapter One to finalize that what we’ve written is in place, makes sense and the reader will have a memorable experience for all the right reasons.

If you’d like, here’s a post I wrote on Goodreads about Writing Fiction with a Partner, Risks and Rewards. I delve more into how Lon and I have worked together.

Come late June, the trilogy will be complete each story taking place around Los Angeles, but especially in the Van Nuys-Burbank area.Van nuys Map

Tom Stone: Nitty Gritty Christmas, available for only 99 cents to introduce you to this crime fiction trilogy.

Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights,

Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.

Look for giveaways, specials, etc and a look at how Lon and I have worked together. We began these stories in January 2015.

So Happy Reading! And we look forward to having you join in the adventure and misadventures in these and future Tom Stone stories.




Crime Fighting Television: Have Gun will Travel

This blog focuses on crime fiction writers, but let’s face it. We’re influenced by what we read and see.

Image Have Gun Will Travel

My co-author of the Tom Stone Detective Stories, Lon, told me about the 1950s crime-fighting western show Have Gun will Travel starring the late Richard Boone in the lead role of Paladin. I asked Lon what he liked about the show.

“I started watching it as a kid and liked it then. Now I see it through adult eyes and I like it more. The stories were written and aired from 1957 to 1963 but they hold up. They’re current, timeless, and they’re morality tales.

“The moral is ‘do what’s right.’ Paladin is a hired gun. He has a conscience and tries to do what’s right. He’s smart A gentleman, knows opera, fencing. Sometimes he has to kill people and he feels badly, but he does what’s right. I also like the acting.”

Lon watches episodes on cable and I pulled it up on YouTube and watched a segment. Cool stuff. Richard Boone, by the way, was a cousin to clean-cut crooner Pat Boone.

I watched a segment, “Show of Force,” where Richard Boone is playing cards in a fancy saloon in ‘Frisco and hears about bad goings on at a ranch. He looks at a headline in the paper and sure ‘nuff. There’s bad stuff going down. Paladin isn’t one to turn a blind eye to justice so off he goes. Watch the segment below after the story excerpt.

Paladin stands out as a strong and dignified character, unflappable in the face of bandits tying him up and threatening his life. He stands for what is good in the face of what is bad.

We even worked Paladin and Have Gun will Travel into the 3rd novel of our trilogy, Tom Stone Day of the Dead.


Here’s an excerpt where our character, Detective Tom Stone is watching the show.

Tom Stone 3 Pack


An actor dressed in old western garb pulled a gun from a holster and aimed at the television screen as a voice intoned. “Put the gun away, Counselor. What good is proof to a dead lawyer?” A simple range of musical notes sounded as an episode of the western Have Gun will Travel got underway.

Stone chewed on a pizza and Silver sat expectantly on the floor waiting for a piece of sausage or strand of cheese to slip and fall. The 1950s western, finding new audiences on cable, allowed Stone to escape away from programs with frenetic edits into a simpler world of black and white. He exchanged the pizza for a bottle of beer on the coffee table while the dog cocked his head, waiting for a bite—or drink.

In the episode “Show of Force,” actor Richard Boone known as Paladin got ready to take action in a dispute between ranchers. Silver started whimpering, focused on the last slice of pizza.

“Okay. If you insist.” Stone tossed a piece of sausage to the floor. “Don’t tell the girls. They say you should eat out of a dog bowl.”

Silver ignored the warning and inhaled the food without even chewing as the storyline unfolded and Paladin confronted the bad guys by talking straight and hitting them in the chin even straighter. A fistfight and chase on horse back ensued. Stone would have liked riding horse and feeling the wind while galloping after a crook. But even back then clues were necessary. He sat back in the sofa and sipped from his beer, letting the half-hour drama take his mind off the chase that continued eluding him. Silver looked over the coffee table, licking his lips.

“All gone, buddy.”

The phone rang, interrupting Stone’s relaxation. “Hello, Stone here?”

“Detective?” A man’s voice was hushed.

On the television set, ranchers squared off. “Yeah.”

“Robert Alvarez.”

“Yeah, yeah. What can I do for you?”

“I know you may be busy, but I wanted to give you an update on Sara.” His voice was strained.



Crime Fiction Author Interview: S.N. Bronstein

Welcome to our Guest Author Interview

PHOTO S.N. Bronstein

This is the first of what are planned to be weekly author crime fiction interviews. S.N. Bronstein caught my eye on Twitter. He’s from Miami and writes about the city where, curiously, I don’t know if too many crime novels take place. It’s not for a lack of crime, I’m sure. A snippet from his novel, The Case of the Miami Blackmailer, follows below the interview.

If you’re an author who wants to be featured in an interview please go to our contact page.

Now, S.N. Bronstein:

What makes Miami a good city for crime/mystery/ thriller novels?

Miami has grown to be a huge metropolitan, heterogeneous area with over two million residents. With this growth came crime. Especially in the Miami Beach area, the crime problem is in total contrast to the feeling one gets when they see the beaches, ocean, hotels, and natural beauty. This contrast adds irony to the crimes I write about.

COVER The Case of the Miami BlackmailerWhat motivated you to write The Case of the Miami Philanthropist?

I lived all my life on Miami Beach, and when I retired I had the time to reflect on the disconnect between the natural beauty there and the underworld of crime in all its forms. Knowing the culture, I was driven to write a series about crime stories in the area.

You mentioned in the 2nd edition that crime techniques have changed – what are some of those changes and why did you feel you needed to update the story?

The science of forensic crime detection becomes more complex each day. Technology such as DNA testing, routine cheek swabs of incarcerated persons, and laboratory analysis of previously untestable body evidence made me realize that a manuscript written in 2008 failed to contain opportunities for a detective to find evidence to establish reasonable suspicion. For example, iphones were never considered as a means for tracking the moves of a person of interest.

Have you grown as an author – name 1 or 2 techniques you’ve learned about the craft of writing and/or what advice would you give to new authors?

I have learned to trust my instincts while writing. If I am satisfied that my research establishes that something is factual, I keep in my books rather than edit it out because readers might not find it plausible. Also, I don’t count words as I write. When the story is told, it’s done. Crime stories in contrast to mysteries can be brief, to the point, and tell a great tale without being 500 pages long.

Do you have favorite authors in this genre that you like to read?

I always liked the style of Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and two great screen writers of the Columbo TV series; Stephen Cannell and Steven Bochco.

What do you like about writing older children’s stories and how did that come about?

One day the thought occurred to me that if I could write adult crime stories, then I could do the same for middle grade kids. Using the inquiring behavior of my two cats, I dreamed up the Private Eye Cats series. I used the same formula of discovering a crime, the gathering of evidence, and the insight of the protagonists to bring the criminal to justice. Of course, the books are age appropriate for 9-12 year olds but the formula is the same. I love that kids are fascinated by two cats being detectives.

Where can readers browse and buy your books?

My website is the best venue for learning about all of my books, myself, and ordering copies. Books are available in ebook format, paperback, and hardcover on Amazon and all online book sellers. is my website address.

BOOK EXCERPT–SNIPPET: The Case of the Miami Blackmailer

After almost ten years as a private investigator I still feel uncomfortable when I conduct my first meeting with a new client. Cops, murderers, whores, dopers, petty thieves, and everyone else who exists or works in the substrata of society I can deal with comfortably. My problem is I can never figure out how a new client should perceive me during the initial meeting.

I can do the therapist routine like keep eye contact, do the ‘forward lean’ thing, repeat a statement the client makes to get them to embellish on it, summarize periodically, and all of the other moves that encourage the client to talk. The problem is, this often makes me feel like a damn marriage counselor not a detective. I do these things and I can’t help but wonder if the person is looking around the walls to see my Doctorate in Psychology degree instead of a PI’s license. On the other hand I can sit there looking like a tough guy, smoke a cigarette, and keep a wary snarl on my face. I don’t smoke cigarettes, I’m not a tough guy, and I look foolish when I snarl. I’m not comfortable with the tough guy persona any more than I am with the therapist routine. I never got this introductory phase down.

Crime Fiction Author Interview Coming April 13

SN Bronstein
Crime fiction author S.N. Bronstein

Interviews with crime fiction authors will be a regular feature.

Check back on Friday, April 13 to read an interview featuring Miami-based writer S.N. Bronstein. He’s written 4 novels for adults and books for children and tweens ages 9 – 13.



If you’re a crime fiction author who would like to be featured, go to our contact page and connect with us on social media or do the old-fashioned thingy and email us!

We know there are some terrific writers that readers should know about.

Detective story update: Tom Stone Day of the Dead

Our police detective stories evolved. Here’s an update on the soon-to-be-completed Tom Stone Day of the Dead. We began writing our Tom Stone novels January 2015, scrapped the very first one about 13 chapters in and started fresh with Tom Stone: Nitty Gritty Christmas.

Tom Stone 3 Pack

Currently, we’re in the home stretch of finishing our full draft–we’re currently in Chapter 32 with Stone in a pivotal discussion. What will come of it?

Stay tuned for Special Offers as we prepare to publish this trilogy.

And stay tuned to this blog as we invite other authors to drop in and develop some cool features — or, as we like to say Kewl Features.

Come connect with Tom Stone, his family, friends and — alas, enemies. Enjoy this taste of Book 3 Tom Stone Day of the Dead with an excerpt from Chapter 18:


The pilot’s sunglasses gave him a hard look, but his lips were trembling. Angel kept the gun aimed with his finger tight on the trigger. The chopper slowed and the runners touched dirt.

“Shut it down,” said Angel.

“Okay, you got it.” The pilot turned off the power. “So, okay, man, I walk away? That’s cool with me. I won’t say nothing. Agreed? I’ll keep my mouth—”

Angel fired and the man fell forward, his sunglasses dropping from his face.

“Power lines, my ass.”

The whirring blades grew quieter and fell silent. He looked at his fingers and breathed a sigh of relief.

A quick look around the craft revealed a semi-automatic rifle stashed away and emergency flares. He found a first aid kit, bottles of water, and snacks. A daypack sat inside a cabinet along with bottles of wine and whiskey. Someone was prepared. That was the thing about DeVito. He was a first class guy and made sure all his vehicles were fully stocked and up to code. Angel packed the pistol and the other items, hopped out, and decided to take more revenge at DeVito’s expense.

He located the fuel tank and then made his way across rocks, pear-shaped cactus and grass that grew scraggly and wild like it was desperate for a sip of water. The sun was dipping lower. Angel knew he had to work fast to get out of the desert before nighttime hit and temperatures plummeted.

The chopper had landed in a depression with hills shielding the location from back roads, off-road adventurers, and hikers. That was to have been his graveyard while DeVito would sit in his estate, chomping on cigars and fondling women too stupid to know any better. Idiots.

Angel set down the supplies and cradled the rifle. No one was going to get in his way now.

He opened fire and the bullets flew wildly into the craft. Click. Click. Empty. He tossed the weapon to the ground. Nothing seemed to happen. Angel walked close to inspect his work. Gas leaked from the tank, but he was disappointed that it didn’t blow up like in the movies. He stepped back, lit a flare, and tossed it to the fuel leak. Fire caught and began to burn. He turned around, walked away, and a sudden explosion knocked him to the ground. He looked and shielded his eyes to see the copter engulfed in flames.


Available now on Amazon:

Tom Stone Nitty Gritty Christmas

Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights