The Quirky and Sane Heroes in Popular Crime Fiction

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Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

As we continue crafting our Fourth Novel in the Tom Stone Detective Story series–One Shot, One Kill–a realization struck me and Lon that Tom Stone is different than some other popular, fictional crime fighters.

He makes sense and he works to make sense of the chaos around him.

By the way, stay up to date with our adventures and click here to join our Reading Group.

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You’ll get first notice on previews, discounts and more.

61 Hours (Jack Reacher, #14)

Jack Reacher – Entertaining and Socially Inept

Quirks, tempers, and gruff outsides mark many fictional detectives and thriller heroes. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is one of the most colorful characters I’ve known. In 61 Hours, Reacher is traveling on a bus that gets stuck in the snow in a town where the police are suspecting a prison break. He has no luggage and makes it clear to the people he meets that he travels light.

Reacher is a former military policeman and looks at every situation through the eyes of what crisis could erupt. He’s witty and lives with a wary eye, waiting for the bad guy to spring into the open at any moment.

And he’s a loner—just like a good thriller hero.

Detective Harry Bosch – The Tough Guy

Slightly different is Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s Los Angeles detective character. Bosch isn’t quirky like Reacher. But he’s cop-tough and gruff. He gives brief, deep guttural answers and is fairly much a loner except for his teenage daughter.

Everyone Nods: The Dragnet Style Files: "The Big Amateur ...

Sgt Joe Friday (Jack Webb) – Dragnet – The Man of Few Words

One of our first blog posts on this site was about Jack Webb’s infamous character who showed little emotion and said few words. Webb played him neutral and said you don’t where he stands on topics like religion and politics.

Tom Stone: Day of the Dead (Tom Stone Detective Stories -  Book 3) by [Bixby, Lon Casler, Simkovich, Don]

Detective Tom Stone – Rational, Sane

Then there’s Detective Tom Stone. We realized after writing three novels so far that Stone is the calm one in the center of quirky and desperate characters, like the eye of the hurricane. The rational one who works hard to keep society heading in a straight line so people don’t destroy each other.

In Book One, Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas, Stone reluctantly accompanies his partner on the force, Jake Sharpe, and hands out Christmas presents at a group home. He befriends a boy, Andrew, who constantly fights the staff at the group home and can’t sit still. He sees the boy as growing up and heading right into the prison system which is the fate of so many kids in foster care. Through the novels, we see the relationship deepening.

He has two daughters who are middle and late teens and he has worked hard to remain on good terms with his ex-wife Kelly, realizing that both of them focused on their careers instead of on each other. Yet, he and his ex- have given them stability.

Being loyal to friends and family is important to Stone, just as its important to his girlfriend, a savvy black woman Alisha Davidson.

Davidson is the defense attorney for the man that Stone is originally pursuing, Anthony Angelino – a quirky and desperate character who both Lon and I enjoyed creating and shaping. But Stone sees her determination and how she approaches her work and develops deep respect.

Here are links to the books.

Click here for our Crime Books page

Click the titles to see the books in their outlet:

Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas

Book 2 Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights

Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead

Our work in progress is Book 4 Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill

If you like short stories, we recommend A Deadly Path – a father-son hike above the Los Angeles foothills turns tragic and uncovers the mystery of an unsolved murder.

Jake Sharpe and his son, Darrell, invite Stone and Andrew along for a hike.

Here’s an Excerpt

The mountains that ran west to east created a wall of wilderness between Los Angeles’ urban sprawl and the High Desert. Unfortunately, the cracks and crevices made great hiding places for crazies. Fugitives could crawl back in for miles, find a campground, or live among the coyotes and bears and surface along the homes and stores that ringed the wilds, stealing food or shaking someone down for money.

Another shot rang out.

Or shoot someone for sport.

Darrell was breathing heavily from panic. He slid across the dirt by his Dad. “What are we going to do?”

“Calm down, buddy,” whispered Jake. “We’ve got options.”

The boulder that protected them was several feet high and wide. Not bad. But Jake had no line of vision and if the shooter was creeping toward them, he could sneak up unnoticed. To the right and closer to the falls was a stack of large rocks that were stacked like a fortress. It was a good hiding spot. Getting behind it and keeping watch on the boulder would give them room to move back and forth.

Down the trail, just a little, was another stack of rocks. It would make sense for them to appear they were running back that way, like they were trying to escape.

Jake looked at his son. “I got an idea.”

“Yeah?” Darrell sounded hopeful as he pressed his back against the boulder. There were no more shots so either the gunman had gotten tired of the torment or else he was picking his way closer.

Jake knelt and locked eyes with Darrell. “See that rock?” A flat stone lay beside him.

“Yep.”

“I want to keep whoever’s doing the shooting distracted. Pick it up and throw it down the trail.” He pointed. “Low, so it hits near the rocks.”

“That’s it? That’s your idea?”

“For now. Yeah. I want us to have a little space so we’re not stuck together. Believe me, son, I’m not letting anything happen to you. Now, just toss that stone way down there.”

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Deadly Drug Wars in Fiction and Real Life: Tijuana

Just across the border from San Diego, the drug war in Tijuana is real and costly. Selling on a corner without permission, not paying, and dealing in the wrong place has killed enough people that Tijuana, Baja California, is one of the deadliest cities in the world.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Tijuana suffered 2,518 homicides in 2018. That was more than double the number of killings in 2016.

A local drug war is fueling the battles and more than 9 out of 10 homicides goes unsolved. The killers don’t have to pay a price.

In Los Angeles, about half of all homicides go unsolved. It’s of interest to me since our Tom Stone Detective Stories are set in some of the grittier neighborhoods, not necessarily tougher, but not glamorous, either.

You can find the stories on Amazon. Or go to our Crime Books page.

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So I looked up “U.S. cities and homicide rates” and guess what I found?

Where do you think Los Angeles might have been?

How about New York? Or Chicago?

Big cities, right? Lots of crime?

Take a guess. What U.S. city has the highest murder rate per 100,000 people?

We’ll pause as you think about it.

Ok. The answer is on a site called The Trace.org in an article titled:

What’s the Homicide Capital of America? Murder Rates in U.S. Cities, Ranked. 

So it’s not any of the major cities that you might think. Nope, not at all.

It’s the Arch City in the Show Me state: St. Louis, Missouri with a rate of 66.1 murders per 100,000.

Next comes Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans and Kansas City at 30.9 homicides per 100,000.

Kansas City? That’s probably the Missouri side. Dang. Do you realize that Missouri is one of the deadliest states in the Union? I mean to have two cities ranking so high. Incredible.

And in California, guess what city still beats out Los Angeles?

It’s Stockton. It’s number 15 on the list followed by Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Stockton has 17.8 murders per 100,000 residents while Tulsa has 17.3.

Wow, so what’s Los Angeles’ rate?

First, what about Chicago? 24.1 bang-de-bangs per 100,00.

Ok, now for Los Angeles … the City of Angels. Got good news for you, folks.

In the land of Detective Tom Stone and his partner, Jake Sharpe, La-la land has 7 killin’s per 100,000. Wow. Not bad, huh?

I was surprised.

If you like charts, then this one works well. It’s from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Check it out hereucr-cities-ranking-2017-1280x0-c-default

And access the url here. Information in it was updated September 27, 2014.

Hey, if you’re in the mood for a quickie crime read, then the thriller short story A Deadly Path is just your … well, cup of tea isn’t exactly the macho sounding invite, but you know what I mean.

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Revealing Our Title for Tom Stone Book 4 … The Thriller Novel is …

Above the mansions in Los Angeles that are cut into the steep hills are wind-swept grasses and ridges.

phpcFgUEhPMWhat can happen from this vantage point for someone set on revenge is how we introduce our new thriller novel that’s named:

One Shot, One Kill.

This is Book 4 of the Tom Stone series and continues the chase for drugs that began quietly in:

Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas, took a deadly twist in

Book 2 Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights and turned into an explosive double-cross in

Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.

Covers for action thriller Tom Stone Detective Stories on Amazon
Racing through the streets of Los Angeles neighborhoods in pursuit of justice.

Now, get ready for Book 4 Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill.

This thriller of a novel shows that it doesn’t take much to throw entire crime syndicates into confusion and set some of the most powerful and twisted people in Los Angeles at each other’s throats.

Detective Tom Stone and his partner Jake Sharpe tackles an elusive case where they encounter characters tainted with guilt, but ones they could never fully apprehend.

One Shot, One Kill.

It’s our deadliest, most chilling thriller yet with twists and turns that will make your fingers raw from turning the pages and your eyes bleary from reading far more than you expected.

Take the ride. Heed the call. If you dare.

We’re working on this powerful Work-in-Progress and it will release in a few months. We’ll keep you up to date on the progress.

Keep tuned to this blog for more author interviews and crime news, including updates on some of the most notorious criminals ever to roam the earth.

One Shot, One Kill.

Remember the title: Tom Stone Book 4: One Shot, One Kill

Stay engaged and in the know by joining our Readers Group where you can get first notice on special promotions.

Want a free chapter from Day of the Dead and a free copy of our short story, A Deadly Path?

Click here to join our Reader’s Group.

And be on the lookout … summer 2019 …

Tom  Stone Book 4: One Shot, One Kill.

Chilling, thrilling, with blood spilling. Just enough blood to wreak havoc on the toughest and most reprehensible criminals in Los Angeles.

Crime fiction at its finest.

Drug smuggling at its nastiest.

Best Crime Fiction 2018

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Photo by Ari Spada on Unsplash

2018 is when President Bill Clinton and James Patterson published their novel The President is Missing. It may not have been considered one of the year’s best but it was a unique approach. Who knows? Maybe George W. Bush will publish a western that takes place on a Texas ranch or Barack Obama will pen a compelling tale of Chicago mobsters or Hawaiian tourists.

2018 is also the year that Lon Bixby and I (Don Simkovich) published Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead, as we continue our chase around Los Angeles and Southern California. Some crime fiction authors churn out a few titles per year. Lon and I are a tad slower but we keep plugging away as we explore the characters.

TS-SS-ADP-FrontCover-V3-Hero-500x313We also published a short story A Deadly Path, a father-son hiking story set in the San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles.

If you’re interested in knowing about what is considered the Best Crime Fiction of 2018 here are links and sources to check:

 

 

 

 

The Booklist Reader’s Top Three are:

Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

The Force by Don Winslow

 

Vulture.com 10 Best Crime Novels of 2018 include:

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem

The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

 

Crime Reads.com has the 20 Best Crime Novels of 2018 and to name a few:

November Road by Lou Berney

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran

 

The New York Times Best Crime Fiction of 2018 names these among its mentions:

Wrecked by Joe Ide, featuring his brainy PI from Los Angeles (I wonder if he and Detective Tom Stone know each other)

In the Galway Silence by Ken Bruen

Holy Ghost by John Sandford

So there you have a few “best crime book” lists. There are others so keep looking if you’d like. But otherwise, we hope you had your favorite crime books of 2018 that you enjoyed and that you’ll look forward to more in 2019.

One of mine was Badlands by CJ Box and reminded me of Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.

Have a wonderful 2019 in the stories you choose and in the life you live!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Christmas Crime Novels to Tense Your Holidays

A crime story at Christmastime adds a layer of angst to what is always celebrated as a joyous time of year. These novels can make for dangerous reading. Go ahead and turn a few pages and see what dilemmas you’ll encounter.

Tom Stone Nitty Gritty Cover
A crime story that involves little-known neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas 

A puzzling, drug-smuggling caper written by Don Simkovich and Lon Casler Bixby. Since this is our blog, we just had to list it first.

 

 

 

 

Published in 1933, this story delves into the psychological side of murder. Take a peek at Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith.

Cheery, hmm?

Adrian Gray meets a terrible fate from one of his children.

 

 

 

The Secret of Annexe 3 — for Endeavour fans everywhere, featuring Chief Inspector Morse who normally steers clear of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

For a related blog post, see this one we wrote on Endeavour Series V.

 

 

 

christmas classic crime

A stalled train forces passengers to take refuge in a house where they become trapped. Chills and thrills for the holidays. Mystery in White.

 

 

 

 

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler “offers yuletide fun and crimes” according to a 2013 review from The Washington Post.

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

So many Christmas crime books are from British authors, which is not surprising since Christmas traditions are strong and it’s a place where so many crime fiction novels have been written.

You might think that Sir Author Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame was the reason for crime fiction, but it’s actually American-born Edgar Allen Poe who is considered the father of the detective story.

By the way, if you’re new to this blog that’s based on our Tom Stone detective stories, Lon and I want to extend a warm welcome to you. We do feature other authors in the thriller and crime fiction genre as well as excerpts from our own stories.

Here’s a good place to start if you want to check out the blog in more detail. Read this post “If you’re new to our crime thriller blog.”

It contains links to other posts including interviews with Don and Lon.

Enjoy it and we hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday season and New Year’s celebration.

Also, take a few moments to look at our Crime Fiction Books page.

We’re working on Book 4 of the Tom Stone series and are quite excited about it. Stay tuned for discounts, deals and announcements about it by clicking here to join our reader’s group.

When you do, you can get a free chapter four of Tom Stone: Day of the Dead and a free copy of our short story A Deadly Path.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Child with No Family in Our Thriller Novel

Tom Stone Nitty Gritty Cover
A crime story that involves little-known neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Christmas is a bittersweet at the group home in our thriller novel and story, Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas (only 99 cents Dec 21 – 25 on Amazon). Sure, the kids love getting presents but in our story there was one boy who acts up and realizes something is missing.

The story opens with Detective Tom Stone going with his partner Jake Sharpe to take presents to the kids and when Stone steps inside the group home, he notices a familiar setting:

Inside, there were a dozen or so long tables with a food service area in the back. A few women and men in hairnets were serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, plates of cookies and hot chocolate. It reminded Stone of the prisons he had seen when he had to interrogate inmates, but perhaps it was just a variation on an institutional theme.

He notices a boy who can’t sit still at a table packed with candy and who is creating a disturbance. The staff can’t figure out what to do with him.

“Sit down for Santa, Andy. Come on, man, be good.”

“I don’t want Santa. I want to go home.” Andrew grabbed the candy bar, ripped open the wrapping and stuffed it in his mouth.

A boy sitting across the table spoke matter-of-factly, “This is our home.”

Ivy Acres in the story is a clean place and the staff are friendly. But it’s not home and Stone recognizes this, nor can the boys go home.

Andrew is loosely based on a real life boy that I, Don, know — the oldest brother of my youngest adopted daughter. He grew up in a group home facility and his life after being emancipated has been one of moving in and out of adult group homes, hitting the streets, having a girlfriend and baby, then getting busted for drugs and armed robbery.

He’s gone into county jail, state prison, and now back in county jail but is really wanting to change. The abuse he suffered in his first few years of life and then lack of family has had a permanent impact on the choices he’s made.

He’s impulsive and his path through foster care and into an institutional setting has been his path to incarceration as a man.

The relationship with Andrew deepens in the next two Tom Stone novels and our short story, A Deadly Path.

During Christmas, getting presents from Santa isn’t a substitute for a family. And Detective Tom Stone sees this and makes a decision himself.

We hope you enjoy reading it and enjoy Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights and Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.

We’re currently writing Book 4 so stay tuned for updates.

 

Real life inmates and our Tom Stone thriller stories

In our crime fiction novels and short story, we bring in many real life elements including foster care and interracial romance.

In our first three novels, our criminal on the run, Anthony Angelino, was a realistic person. Part of our writing comes from Don’s relationship with an inmate, a young man who grew up in a group home and then spent almost two years living with Don’s family.

CRIMINAL REALITIES: EXPENSIVE CARE PACKAGES

One of the realistic elements of having an inmate relative in custody is that sending approved care packages through the available services is incredibly expensive.

Look at this below: would you pay $55 for this collection?

Item 1 of 1

Winter Wishlist

Christmas Cookies (1)
Yogurt Dipped Holiday Pretzels (2)
Mint Dipped Oreos (2)
Holiday Card (1)
Hawaiian Punch – Juicy Red (1)
Ramen – Chili (2)
Ramen – Cajun Chicken (2)
Ramen – Picante Beef (2)
Hot Chocolate (2)
Maxwell House (1)
Vanilla Cappuccino (1)
Mocha Cappuccino (1)
Creamer (10)
Reeses Peanut Butter Cup (1)
Snack Crackers (1)
Big Haus Summer Sausage (1)
Hot Pepper Cheese Bar (1)
Jalapeno Cheetos (2)
Nacho Doritos (2)
White Cheddar Popcorn (2)
$55.99
REFORM SHOULD REDUCE THE COST OF INMATE CARE PACKAGES
We’ve not checked to see if some of the legislation for justice reform impacts the cost of gifts like this or the lack of hygiene products available.
In a state like California, which boasts the seventh or eighth largest economy in the world, inmates in county jails and state prisons have a tough time getting basic hygiene products like soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste unless their friends or relatives pay for it.
Well, more reality to work into our future stories. 

Covers for action thriller Tom Stone Detective Stories on Amazon
Racing through the streets of Los Angeles neighborhoods in pursuit of justice.

UPDATE ON OUR TOM STONE STORIES

 

We are mid-way through Book 4 and we’ll reveal the title soon. Stay tuned. It promises to be an epic novel of drug dealing and battling in Los Angeles, bringing together the story lines of the previous novels.
Now, enjoy this excerpt from Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead, Chapter 2

 

EXCERPT: TOM STONE: DAY OF THE DEAD

 

Anthony Angelino’s prison-issued jumpsuit did more than mark him as an inmate in California’s state prison system. It seemed like a shield that protected him from his visitor ….
…. Prison inmates were responsible for requesting visitors and then applications were sent to the prospective friend or relative. Angelino let weeks and then months pass before taking action. In his mind, Amman was a foe and not a friend, so he had no problem waiting and making Amman write multiple letters asking about the visitation status ….
…. Angelino’s hatred for Amman had been reinforced during the visit. He sauntered back to the cell block and tried once again to shut out thoughts of the bustling dispensary he had owned in East Hollywood.
He reached his bunk where his cellmate, Calvin, lay with an arm covering his face. His chest heaved and Angelino could tell that the man was crying.
“You didn’t see nothing.” Calvin was doing time for holding up a check cashing store and his wife told him during their visit that she was divorcing him.
“No problem, man,” Angelino responded. Showing weakness wasn’t a good idea in lockup. It made a man vulnerable to predators and Angelino had no business ratting on people who didn’t cause him any trouble.
He stretched on his mattress and wondered what Sara was doing at the moment and if she was thinking about him. Tension built as he pictured her going to nursing school, taking classes, graduating, and leaving him.
Shit. He hated Amman and he hated Stone for getting him tossed into the system. And he hated his attorney for taking so damned long to do something, anything that would get him out.
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Read about our books on our Crime Books page or click on this link to Amazon.