Minor Characters Bad and Good in Los Angeles Thriller

Minor characters, both nasty and nice, mean a lot to us in our Detective Tom Stone thriller novels. No story is complete unless a minor character with meaning is there to add and shape the story line.

Minor Characters Add Depth

Imagine a movie or novel without any minor characters. Okay, does Castaway with Tom Hanks qualify as an example? There’s always an exception. But in movies or novels, those characters with small parts can loom large in the memory bank.

Who are the minor characters that you remember from books of any genre, movies, television or stage? Mention them in the comments. It’d be fun to see who they are. The very first one who comes to mind for me is one I can only describe from Animal House is “that guy with the thick glasses” in a green shirt.

The scene comes with the fraternity brothers are kicked out of school and two guys are moaning about. One has been beaten up. John Belushi stands up and yells, “Hey, what’s all this lying around shit?”

The guy in green says “What the hell are we supposed to do you moron?

One line that I remember from a movie I saw 41 years ago. That’s even less than a minor character.

Tom Stone: Day of the Dead Book 3 in the Tom Stone series

Our Minor Character Ronaldo

We have a “minor character” that we really liked. Ronaldo in Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights and Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.

He was one of the only people that our crook Anthony Angelino could trust. Ronaldo had done some bad things but was wanting to go straight. He lives in El Centro, CA, caring for his mother and running a flooring business.

EXCERPTS FROM TOM STONE: DAY OF THE DEAD

Available on Amazon in print and ebook

EXCERPT 1 Ronaldo basked in relief after reading Angel’s letter. Every word made it sound like his friend expected to be released from prison soon. The inventory of cocaine would be distributed and they would be rich men. Ronaldo adjusted the oxygen tank for his mother who was rocking slowly on the newly finished wooden floor. “Do you like how it shines, Mama?”

“It’s beautiful.” She stated it more as a fact than emotion.

A weight lifted as he considered what it would be like to never handle a gram of cocaine again in his life. He had made good money but had no inner peace. Knowing who to trust was difficult. The guy handing you a wad of hundred dollar bills could be an undercover narcotics agent ready to slap cuffs on your wrists.

EXCERPT 2 It was a life made for Angel. He thrived on the danger as though the excitement was its own drug. For Ronaldo, it was different. He simply enjoyed caring for his mother and running his flooring business.

A fan and filter in the central air conditioning unit scrubbed the dirt particles and circulated fresh air.

“You hear that?”

“Yes.” A smile creased her lips and for the first time in what seemed like years, Ronaldo saw his mother’s spirit lifted. Hope ran through his body like electricity zipping unnoticed into the controls for the temperature and lighting. While southern California’s Imperial County labored under the early October heat wave reaching triple digits, Ronaldo’s house was temperate and smelled clean. Mama’s steady breathing was proof that the dust swirling around El Centro remained outside.

No one questioned how Ronaldo had bought the new house in addition to fixing up his old one. He fixed the falling plaster and changed out the single pane windows to make it nice enough to rent out. Living in the new home with a shiny red tile roof and automatic sprinklers made Ronaldo feel on top of the world.

Tell us about the minor characters and minor moments you remember.

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Review of Drug Smuggling Movie: Sicario

Sicario (2015)–Juarez is seen through a chain link fence and a federal agent calls it The Beast and their mission is to drive to the Juarez courthouse, pick up a convicted member of a drug cartel and get him back across the border to El Paso for interrogation.

Staying alive is the challenge.

Sicario is an intense portrayal of smuggling drugs along the U.S. Mexico border. Lon watched it while we were in the early stages of writing our 4th novel Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill and told me I should definitely see it. By the way, click here to read up on our crime books.

Emily Blunt as Agent Kate Macer; Josh Brolin as Matt Graver, Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro and Victor Garber as Dave Jennings. Personally, Victor Garber is one of my favorite actors over the years. Did you know he was the original Jesus in the Godspell movie from 1972?

Denis Villeneuve directed and Taylor Sheridan was the writer.

At the end this post, I included a scene from the movie.

Sicario Summary

I stopped writing for a couple of hours to take in the experience. Filmmaking and acting are about moments and Sicario has plenty of them – nice, tense moments that tie the story together instead of being a big, noisy shoot ‘em out kind of flick.

The Movie’s Opening

It begins with a raid on a middle-class housing development in Chandler, Arizona with a shoot ‘em out opening. A combatant is killed inside a bedroom where the walls are unfinished and there’s no furniture.

He lies dead and an agent notices something odd beneath the drywall. It gets ripped back and there are human remains in plastic bags stuffed into the walls. I got it, but the camera pulls back and the scene quickly switches to the medical examiners in haz mat suits and others on the scene while we see the agents outside, vomiting and recovering from what they experienced.

The Mood

This is a personally intense exploration of fighting drugs smugglers who live opulent lives from the suffering of others. The quick glimpses of some mutilated bodies and other violence shows up but it’s not the focus.

The FBI agents are filled with personal conflict while working with the CIA operatives who don’t follow the book in how they handle their targets.

It’s realistic, says Lon, and the tension comes during moments keeping you wondering what will happen next.

While flying on a private jet from Phoenix to El Paso, Agent Macer is sitting by Alejandro while Josh Brolin’s character is napping on the jet’s sofa. She notices Alejandro’s hand shaking and shaking and he jolts awake and she jumps. A wonderfully done moment letting the viewer experience what’s happening inside the character – an achievement in film and writing novels, especially thriller novels.

The Ending

I won’t spoil it – although it’s been out for a good four years at this point. But the ending is a personal vendetta for Alejandro who’s out to avenge the death of his wife and daughter, victims of the cartels.

You get this feeling that Alejandro is a good guy buy with a bad guy attitude.

Recommendation

I highly recommend it. Even for those who don’t like shoot ‘em up movies, it’s a good portrayal of what happens when people are out pursuing the millions upon millions of dollars by smuggling drugs.

Here’s a link to Sicario’s page on IMDB.

Tying it in to our Tom  Stone Thriller Novels

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

Our stories take place in Los Angeles with a twisted entrepreneur Anthony Angelino seeking to build his fortune through smuggling and operating a legal marijuana dispensary.

While ours contain some violence, it’s not gratuitous and we have many real life moments that are tense in and of themselves.

Here’s one: a dream that Angelino has in Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights Chapter Ten:

The copter took off with its propellors blasting through the air and left Los Angeles behind and made its way northeast over the San Gabriel Mountains and into the high desert. Angelino wanted to scream for it to stop, but the words were strangled in his throat. The man next to him had no face and stayed silent. They reached the highest possible altitude and when there were no houses or freeways below, the faceless man opened the side of the door and grabbed him.

Angelino bolted upright, screamed again, and kicked.

“Ow, Babe.” Sara curled to one side and reached for where Angelino had kicked her.

His chest heaved and sweat poured from his forehead. He swung his legs off the bed, and in the darkness he put his feet on the floor until relief flooded him.

Nightmares were like a sign of weakness. When he was a kid, after his father was killed, he would wake up screaming in the night and his mother would cradle him and pray. That wouldn’t help him now.

The novel is available on Amazon.

Hey, if you want a dose of family and tension, read our thriller short story A Deadly Path – a father and son hike in the foothills above Los Angeles goes bad and leads to solving a cold case murder.

Los Angeles Crime Stats and Our Tom Stone Thriller Novels

What’s the crime rate in Los Angeles, the city for our Tom Stone Detective Stories?

Crime in Los Angeles is our Week 3 blog feature.

The City of Angels has plenty of bad guys and heinous crimes and the actual crime rate is a little fuzzy depending on classifications.

Homicides in Los Angeles

In 2013, Los Angeles reported 296 homicides in the city proper, which corresponds to a rate of 6.3 per 100,000 population—a notable decrease from 1980, when the all time homicide rate of 34.2 per 100,000 population was reported for the year.[2]

In 2014, there were 260 homicides, at a rate of 6.7 per 100,000 people.

Compare to 2002. This info table from City Data shows 654 murders per 100,000 people.

Violent Crimes in Los Angeles

In 2015, it was revealed that the LAPD had been under-reporting crime for eight years, making the crime rate in the city appear much lower than it really is. Approximately 14,000 assaults went unreported as “minor offenses” rather than violent crimes.[4] Additionally, recent years have seen increased crime in the city.

Safest Los Angeles Neighborhoods

Here’s another look at crime from a site called Neighborhood Scout that lists the 10 safest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The top three are in the western San Fernando Valley.

#1 is Victory Boulevard and Balboa Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.

#2 Topanga Canyon Boulevard

#3 Mulholland Drive / Sepulveda

Van Nuys

Our stories run quite frequently through Van Nuys, a part of Los Angeles that’s filled with car dealerships and is home to the Van Nuys airport, one of the busiest municipal airports in the nation.

Violent crimes aren’t too bad in the area, according to info from Home Facts.com.

Property crimes are a greater risk in the area than violent crimes.

Street gangs aren’t known for being too blood-thirsty.

Drug Smuggling in Los Angeles

The Port of Long Beach – Los Angeles is one of the busiest in the world. It’s known for receiving shipments and sending, too, as noted in this excerpt Feb 2019 from the Los Angeles Times:

Federal authorities seized more than 1.7 tons of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin hidden in two containers that were being shipped to Australia from the Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport, officials announced Thursday.

Six people, two Americans and four Australians, with ties to a transnational crime syndicate based in the U.S. were arrested by Australian Federal Police in connection with the shipment, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

Crimes in our Tom Stone Detective Stories books

Our crimes are committed on a more individualized basis, although they do include drug running and cocaine smuggling—and mob bosses pushed out of helicopters, too.

In Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas cocaine is stuffed into candy bars and sets off Tom Stone’s chase of Anthony Angelino. Angelino is a twisted entrepreneur who services his own network of vending machines – and boxes of candy – perfect for smuggling.

At the end we have a brief excerpt from A Nitty Gritty Christmas.

Book 2 Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights … Angelino buys a legal marijuana dispensary and the mob muscles in on his profits, takes him over, and pushes him into smuggling cocaine.

Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead … Angelino double-crosses the mob boss, Frank DeVito, and lays claim to the cocaine shipment.

Book 4 Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill … brings the series together – this is a Work-in-Progress and we’re aiming for a mid-June 2019 release.

Angelino’s Defense Attorney – a Key player in the Tom  Stone series

Alisha Davidson is a tough defense attorney who cares about the law as much as Tom Stone. She looks out for her clients and comes to Anthony Angelino’s defense – while striking up a romance with Stone.

She leverages the mob crashing in on Angelino’s business.

In real-life Los Angeles, there are attorneys who specialize in defending drug smuggling charges.

EXCERPT FROM TOM STONE: A NITTY GRITTY CHRISTMAS

Tom Stone and his partner Jake Sharpe are hunting down tainted candy and their search has taken them to a bar in North Hollywood. The owner, Yaro, has a machine that’s stocked by Anthony Angelino.

“You need help?” asked Yaro. He smiled and raised his eyebrows like he was amused by the spectacle of a couple dozen bars lying ripped open on the table. Before Stone could tell him “no” he reached in the machine, grabbed a bar and ripped it open. His eyes grew wide. “Hey.” He dropped it on the table like it was poison. “What’s that white shit in there?”

“How about that?” exclaimed Jake.

“We’ll bag this one up,” said Stone.

Jake took a bag with a colorful picture of peanuts on the bright red packaging from the same row. C9. He ripped it open and emptied it on the table. Nuts scattered along with a tiny bag with what looked like white powder inside. “Damn.”

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Hey, Thriller Novel Readers: Preview Ch 1, One Shot, One Kill

That buzz you get from the anticipated and unknown is what we’re bringing to your mind in our thriller novel Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill.

So many ridges above Los Angeles. Danger.

The novel is “shot in Los Angeles” — the victims, that is.

Now you can preview Chapter One, FREE. Click this link to get in on our reading group. Don’t let them have all the fun without you.

Click this link:
https://mailchi.mp/d637a4b5aab4/tomstonecrimefiction

And get a FREE copy of our thriller short story, A Deadly Path and a FREE chapter of Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.

Juice that brain of yours with more thrilling buzz — click on over to our Crime Books page and get summaries of our 1st 3 Tom Stone stories.

A little bit of drugs, lots of family, murder … bad guys and good guys on the chase.

Detective Tom Stone is a calm center in a world of chaos.

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.”

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.