Monday, April 11, 2011

The Shop by J. Carson Black

At first glance, the shooting death of a police chief in a rundown Florida motel room looks like an assignation gone wrong. But as detective Jolie Burke plumbs deeper into the crime's murky undercurrents, she unveils a conspiracy shocking in its scope.

In her relentless pursuit of justice, Burke follows a byzantine path that will take her from the lottery-driven fantasies of a yard maintenance worker to a Panama City Beach missing-persons case and finally to the island compound of her estranged uncle---the Attorney General of the United States.

And in a ski chalet in Aspen, Colorado, the table has been set for an orgy of death, destruction, and infamy. As the stakes rise, Jolie finds herself teamed with a killer. Only Jolie and her unlikely partner, assassin Cyril Landry, can dismantle the shadowy entity known only as The Shop---before it strikes again.

THE SHOP is a hair-raising thriller from start to finish. With a complex plot and finely drawn characters, J. Carson Black draws the reader into a world where nothing is as it seems. This book is both spooky and convincing, just what a thriller should be.

J. Carson Black was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. As a child, she developed strong legs in order to stay on her wily Navajo pony, Cookie, who bucked her off at every opportunity. Those strong legs stood her in good stead when, as a teenager, she was chased through a desert area by a man in a 1955 white-over orange Chevrolet Bel Air. The Chevy Bel Air haunted her dreams for years, finally coming to life in the thriller DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN. J. Carson Black started out her professional life as an opera singer, quickly saw the error of her ways, and turned to writing novels. She has written eleven novels (not counting the approximately two million first chapters she wrote as a child), over fifty magazine articles, worked as a writer for Raytheon Missile Systems, and wrote internet content for two-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey, Kent Desormeaux.

What will readers like about your book? 
If they like crime thrillers set against the backdrop of Americana, I think they'll like this one. My main character, small-town sheriff's detective Jolie Burke, is the kind of person I'd like to be. She's strong and smart, but she has her demons. She's also dogged---once she gets a hold of something, she doesn't let go. She cares about the young man who was killed, even though nobody else does.

Why did you self publish? 
I had two books in a series with a publisher, but they didn't buy the third one. I loved that third book and was proud of it, so I decided to self-publish it. I love self-publishing: designing my own covers (with my husband doing all the dirty work), writing the product description, and marketing it. What I love about self-publishing ebooks is the idea that you can tweak your book and your message. You can do market testing. You can try one thing, and if it doesn't work, you can try another. There are so many things you can do to reach potential readers, whereas it's more difficult in traditional publishing. You're on the shelf for only a limited time.

What is your writing process? 
I sketch a few scenes ahead, loosely, choosing POV, the person's mood, what is going to happen, who wins and who loses, before and after. Then I launch into writing. I try to write the best I can in first draft, making the right choices so I don't have to go back in and rewrite over and over again. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. Although I have a conception of the story in general and a climax in mind, I don't outline. I like to look only as far as my headlights will take me.

What inspired you to write this particular story? 
I always liked the idea of a small-town detective taking on the rich and powerful, pushing on because she has to, no matter what the danger.



Aspen, Colorado:

As they reached the walkway, Landry said, Gloves and masks from now on.

They split up. Jackson would go in first, through the back door. Landry and Davis would go in the front. Green would remain outside; he was surveillance only.

They waited for Jackson to report in. Upstairs clear.

How many?

Two. The couple. They were laying in bed.

Lying, Landry said.


Lying in bed. Not laying.

A pause. Then, Roger that.

Davis opened the front door in one smooth, quick motion, and they stepped inside.

The lights were on. Landry saw the expensive furnishings and enormous stone fireplace; cataloging these things briefly before dismissing them. His eye was on the four targets. Three of them were sleeping: A male and female entwined on a Zebra skin near the fireplace and a young woman crashed out on the couch. The fourth was in the process of walking unsteadily toward the kitchen. He was the kid Landry had seen twirling under the stars. A lot worse for wear. He'd done some steady imbibing, or toking, or snorting, since last Landry saw him on the deck.

The kid looked at them. His eyes had difficulty tracking. He said, You should've come earlier, there was a lot more food.

Landry fell into step with the kid and put an arm around his shoulder, casually pulling him around so he had him from behind. He slit the kid's throat and dropped him like a sack of grain. Dead in eight seconds.

Davis finished dispatching the couple as Landry turned his attention to the sleeper, who was half-sitting, half-lying, her head resting against the couch back. Some sixth sense must have awakened her because she cocked her head upward, her eyes bewildered.


He'd seen her before. It came to him---Brienne Cross. One of those celebrities in the news all the time. His daughter had a poster of her up in her room.

He hesitated just long enough for alarm to dawn in her eyes, which dismayed him. He touched a finger to his lips, letting her know it was all right, and pulled her up toward him with one hand. He drew his knife across her throat with the other.

Her mouth went slack. The light in her eyes died. He let her back down on the couch, gently.

Four here, he said into the radio. Thinking: Brienne Cross.

Jackson joined them. There were six people. All in all the operation had taken fewer than five minutes.

Landry looked at Jackson. Jackson shifted his feet, then started back toward the stairway. His reluctance was clear. He might not do a convincing job.

Landry said: I'll do it.

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