HOTXSINC July 9, 2017: Captain Mike Winn on the Military Justice System

Our mission is to promote
the ongoing advancement, recognition,
and professional development of women crime writers.
                                             ~ SINC Mission Statement
_______________

Program: Captain Mike Winn on the Military Justice System 

The Word on Our Members
The New HOTXSINC Website
Call for Submissions
Speculating About Cremains
Calendar
Selected Sites
Nolo Contendere
_______________

Captain Mike Winn: Military Justice

Captain Mike Winn

At the July 9 HOTXSINC meeting, Captain Mike Winn, Legal Officer for the Permanent Executive Secretariat of  Conference of American Armies (PESCAA), will discuss the military-justice process in general, with a focus on special-victim offenses.

Captain Winn attended Texas A&M and earned a degree in Business Administration before earning his J.D. at SMU Dedman  School of Law. He served as a Trial Counsel/ Military Prosecutor in the Army from  2014-15, as a Legal Assistance Attorney in 2013-14, and as a Special Victim Counsel starting in 2013. He is currently a Legal Officer for the Permanent Executive Secretariat of the Conference of American Armies (PESCAA), U.S. Army South at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter meets monthly on the second Sunday of the month at 2:15 p.m. at Book People, 603 North Lamar, Austin, phone 512-472-5050.  Take the elevator to the third floor.

For information about the Heart of Texas Chapter, contact Joyce Arquette, Publicity (512) 266-6543, and check out our website at http://sinc-heartoftexas.com

*****

I was extraordinarily lucky.
I wrote a book because I wanted to see if I could write a mystery.
Someone nagged me into sending it to a contest, which it won,
after which I was offered a two-book contract,
thus requiring the writing of a second book. ~ Donna Leon

*****

The Word on Our Members

From Wendy Gee
TORCHES is the story of hotshot arson investigator, Draymond Bernadino, who takes over the reins as the Charleston (SC) Fire Marshal and uncovers a ruthless web of corruption and buried secrets while probing two deadly fires thirty years apart.

I entered the Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest for the professional critique. I am honored to have my work deemed worthy of recognition in this prestigious competition. The acknowledgement motivates me to continue my writing with an eye toward publication. I am deeply grateful to members of the WLT and Sisters in Crime (Heart of Texas Chapter) for their encouragement and commitment to developing writers of all skill levels.

 

*

From Manning Wolfe
My new Cover Reveal for MUSIC NOTES is out this week–to see, look to the left.
In addition, I’m going to ThrillerFest and would like to know if anyone else in our group is going so I can look for them–that is July 11-15th in NYC.

*

 

From Nancy G. West
I’m thrilled to announce that Rio Magazine–premier magazine for the San Antonio River Walk–hotels, restaurants, boat rides, natives, and tourists–will feature RIVER CITY DEAD, Aggie Mundeen Mystery #4, as its recommended read in the July issue. Here’s the link to the magazine: https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/magazine/     Click July 2017.

*

 

From Helen Currie Foster
GHOST CAVE and GHOST DOG are now available on Amazon in the Audible Audio Edition, with GHOST LETTER and GHOST DAGGER following hot on their heels. I narrate the books.
https://www.amazon.com/Helen-Currie-Foster/e/B00R1X9RXK

*****

I crawled into my book and pulled the pages over my head. ~ Laurie R. King

 *****

The New HOTXSINC Website

The HOTXSINC blog-newsletter has expanded into a website designed to make information about the chapter easy for readers to find. The HOME page is organized in the following way:

Panel #1 displays information about the upcoming meeting; for a few days after each meeting, pictures will be displayed.

Panel #2, “About HOTXSINC” tells who we are and what our meetings are about. There’s also a list of benefits of membership and a link to the Join/Renew page. The drop-down menu displays links to Officers, By-laws, and Resources.

Panel #3, “HOTSHOTS!,” displays excerpts from the two most recent newsletter posts. The drop-down subhead links to back issues.

Panel #4, “Join/Renew,” displays instructions for joining or renewing membership in HOTXSINC, and links to a printable form. It also links to the Sisters in Crime national membership webpage.

Panel #5, “Authors,” lists HOTXSINC’s member authors and provides links to their websites and blogs.

Member authors, don’t forget to send head shots and a titles of publications to kathywaller1 at gmail dot com for inclusion on the Author page.      

*****

“Our system is not one of justice, but of law.” ~ Edna Buchanan

*****

Call for Submissions

The following link comes from Noreen Cedeño’s “Marketing Books,” part of her May 2017 HOTXSINC presentation. A link to her presentation on Power Point appears on our Resources page.

Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity [This site contains information about contests, paying markets, writing conferences, and much more.]

*****

The sight of one’s own heart is degrading; people are not meant to look inward–
that’s why they’ve been given bodies, to hide their souls. ~ Shirley Jackson  
   

*****

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Speculating About Cremains

by Rob Robertson

I assume the disposition of human remains comes up in crime novels.

In the US, anyhow, we have burials, cremation, and probable statutory handling rules.

Related to dispositions, whether by burial or cremation, there is the subject of jewelry worn by the decedent and cremains disposition.

I have not asked around so do not know.  I speak of gold, any maybe silver, teeth fillings.  I wonder what happens to those?

The funeral directors want to sell expensive caskets and urns. I do not know about types of caskets and costs.  With cremation, urns can be pricey.  Not sure if families buy urns if the cremains will be buried.

The least costly cremains containers are rectangular boxes, usually having a plastic handle at the top.  I have seen cardboard looking and shiny black containers. The weight of one person’s cremains is heavier than one might think.

In the one interment of cremains I have observed, the container was lowered into an opening over an existing casketed grave.  The opening was about 12 inches by 12 inches and about 18 inches deep.  Water had seeped into the bottom of the opening.

I make these remarks because I speculate writers could weave the subjects into novels.

Last, I am lazy.  I have not checked the Texas statutes to see if anything mentioned in this post is addressed, for example, gold teeth/fillings.

Rob Robertson practices family law, estate planning and probate, real estate, and business law in Austin. 

*****

White-collar crime gets more outrageous by the second in America. ~ Sara Paretsky

*****

Calendar

7/9/2017 HOTXSINC Meeting
Capt. Mike Winn speaking on the military justice process
@ BookPeople

7/18/2017 MysteryPeople
Jeff Abbott: Book Launch!
@BookPeople

7/21/2017 MysteryPeople
Ace Atkins: Speaking and Signing
@BookPeople

7/26/2017 MysteryPeople
Bill Loehfelm, Rob Hart, & Jordan Harper
@BookPeople

*****

All of us sing more from sorrow than from joy.
It is tragedy that leaves a mark on the mind and calls for the tribute of a song.
Happiness is its own gift, and needs no other. ~ Sharon McCrumb, The Songcatchers

*****

 Selected Sites

11 THRILLERS THAT WILL KEEP YOU AWAKE THIS SUMMER

Meg Gardiner Interview on KAZI Book Review

Negative Reviews (and Why I Don’t Read Them)

Intuition & Writing: What Happens Next?

2017 Shamus Award SMFS Member Nominees

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – May/June 2017

Guest Post: STAGES OF WRITING A SHORT STORY by Jan Christensen

Society Members’ News: May 2017 (The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog)

Thanks to The Passive Voice for the following:

When All of Your Family Heirlooms Are Stories

80 Million Prime Subscribers Ready For Amazon’s Pharmacy?

Joseph Kanon: There Is No Better Place to Write Than the Library

Inside the Magic Library at the Conjuring Arts Research Center  

The Disorganized Novelist’s Guide to Outlines

Amazon’s Move Signals End of Line for Many Cashiers

Amazon – Whole Foods Is A Game Changer

In the good books

*****

The period after the First World War was an extremely different time,
so that Sherlock Holmes would have been a different person following 1918
than he was during the Victorian era. ~ Laurie R. King

*****

Nolo Contendere

  1. Members, send news for HOTSHOTS! to kathywaller1 at gmail dot com. Deadline for inclusion in the August issue is Friday, July 28.
  2. Member authors, send head shots and titles of your publications to kathywaller1 at gmail dot com for the HOTXSINC Author page.

Kathy Waller, editor
kathywaller1 at gmail dot com

*****

Even if people do wrong, we’re social animals, so what can we do about stopping them doing the same things in future?
Saying people are ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ is just an unwillingness to engage; an unwillingness to try to empathise.
That sanctimonious attitude doesn’t help anyone. ~ Denise Mina

*****

 

 

Last Month

Dr. Douglas Derrer on Hypnosis

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

HOTXSINC Meeting: June 11, 2017: Hypnosis

Our mission is to promote
the ongoing advancement, recognition,
and professional development of women crime writers.
                                             ~ SINC Mission Statement
_______________

Program: Dr. Douglas Derrer on Hypnosis 

The Word on Our Members
Computer Keys for Four Hands: Teaming Up to Write
An Afternoon with Helen Ginger
Call for Submissions
Call to Action: Review!

Calendar
Selected Sites
Nolo Contendere
_______________

Dr. Douglas Derrer on Hypnosis

At the June 11 HOTXSINC meeting, Dr. Douglas Derrer will speak about Hypnosis: its intriguing history, bizarre mythology, interesting clinical applications, and neuroscience findings.  This will include the traits needed for hypnotizability, stage vs. clinical hypnosis, as well as forensic hypnosis and its uses in memory enhancement for witnesses and victims. Dr. Derrer may also present an exercise on hypnotizability if time permits and the audience is interested.

 

Dr. Douglas Derrer & Sheba

Douglas Derrer, Ph. D., is a Yale-trained psychologist who served more than two decades in the United States Navy. Retired and living in Georgetown, Texas, he devotes himself to writing, nature, photography, and cycling. His writing interests are speculative fiction for children and adults. He explores several genres, including fantasy adventures, historical fiction, science fiction, steampunk, and social essays. Pirate Peril, The Sorcerer’s Invasion, and Worlds in Collision comprise his mid-grade/YA fantasy-adventure trilogy. King Tut and the Plagues of Egypt and The Mysterious Death of King Tut are a two-volume historical fiction novel about the fascinating 18th Dynasty boy king. All these books are available on Amazon. Two fan-fiction, steampunk Sherlock Holmes stories “Adventure of the Surrogate Queen” and “The Baleful Beanies” are available for free download from his website, www.douglasderrer.com. A third Holmes story, “A Tunnel through Time” will be available soon. A long time member of the Speculative Fiction Writers Cooperative of Bainbridge Island, Washington, he has a short story, “Road Kill,” in their anthology Penumbra. He belongs to the San Gabriel Writers League of Texas and to Coroners, a writing critique group.

*

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter meets monthly on the second Sunday of the month at 2:15 p.m. at Book People, 603 North Lamar, Austin, phone 512-472-5050.  Take the elevator to the third floor.

For information about the Heart of Texas Chapter, contact Joyce Arquette, Publicity (512) 266-6543, and check out our website at http://sinc-heartoftexas.com

*****

You know what rumors are like–like a jar full of moths.
Once they escape, they’re all over the place. ~ Rhys Bowen

*****

The Word on Our Members

June 7-13, Nancy G. West will be one of thirty-two authors offering books in Henery Press’ Rafflecopter. Nancy will post links on her website and on her Facebook page.
Subscribe to Nancy’s newsletter through the signup box, first page right column, on her website. Or message her on her Facebook page with your name/email address and she’ll sign you up.

*

Dave Ciambrone’s SUSPICIOUS THREADS, a new Virginia Davies Quilt Mystery came out May 23rd.

*

A review of Helen Currie Foster‘s GHOST DAGGER is featured in the May 2017 issue of Reviewer’s Bookwatch: “The fourth novel in author Helen Currie Foster’s simply outstanding  ‘Alice MacDonald Greer’ mystery series, Ghost Dagger continues to document Foster’s originality and complete mastery of the mystery/suspense genre. A deftly crafted and compelling read from cover to cover, Ghost Dagger is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.”

*

Alexandra Burt was interviewed for Read to Write Stories. She was also interviewed on KOOP Radio’s Writing on the Air on May 14. To listen to the KOOP interview, click here.

Alexandra’s latest book, THE GOOD DAUGHTER, was reviewed by Michelle Newby in Lone Star Literary Life: “Well and intricately plotted,  moving quickly, Burt’s story spends as much time in the past as in the present. Subplots enrich and inform the main narrative, and well-placed clues (including the structure of the narratives themselves) tantalize.”

*

The Writers’ League of Texas announced winners and finalists in its 2017 Manuscript Contest. Three HOTXSINC members were named finalists:

  • Wendy Gee for TORCHES;
  • Sue Cleveland and Dixie Wyatt (writing as Meredith Lee) for SHROUDED.

 *

ThirtyNineStars will sponsor a book launch for Meredith Lee’s debut mystery novel, SHROUDED, on September 9, 2017, at The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas. The event is set for 1:30 to 4:30 pm. The first installment in the Crispin Leads Mystery Series, SHROUDED is the story of a graduate student whose trip to Rome to study burial rituals at the Vatican is derailed when she is witness to a murder.  Award-winning author David Aretha calls SHROUDED “a masterfully written mystery novel, powered by well-developed characters and a sophisticated plot.”

*****

If you chomp down too hard on my work, you’re going to break your teeth. ~ Patricia Cornwell

 ******

Computer Keys for Four Hands: Teaming Up to Write

By Dixie Lee Evatt and Sue Meredith Cleveland (aka Meredith Lee)

Dixie Wyatt & Sue Cleveland

How do you write as a team? It’s the question we are asked all the time. It’s a good one but not exactly an easy one to answer. Team, the notion of two horses hitched to a single sled, pulling in unison through the rough, uncharted paths of imagination, character, plot and dialogue, happens occasionally but it is the exception rather than the rule. What is more likely to occur is less like synchronized playing and more like a give and take. Less like a duet and more like badminton.

The birth of an idea is the starting point. One of us has a scathingly brilliant idea for a novel, a scene or a screenplay. It might come from a news article or something that happens to one of us. It might be born out of a snippet of conversation overheard in a restaurant or while waiting in line at the grocery store. It might be inspired while watching the dogs play in the yard or listening to children argue. It might come while researching one topic and then wandering down a rabbit trail, enticed by a wholly unrelated topic.

The partner listens to the idea, laughs, pulls it apart and then, if the idea is sustainable, plotting follows. One or the other of the partners will sketch out an outline and propose characters. From there the conversations begin in earnest. Talk. Talk. Talk. Research. More talk. More talk. Finally, one or the other has to put pen to paper. Or, more accurately, fingers to keyboard. This part is identical to that of every other writer. One set of hands. One keyboard. One computer screen. One draft. Then more talking and the handoff to the partner for critique and feedback. More talking. Each partner will take a hand at rewriting, adding chapters, polishing and handing the work back as the story grows and evolves. Back and forth from one set of hands to the other.

Like a tennis match, the “ball” can only be in one court at a time. Back and forth until that first draft is a reality. The story, the plot and the characters all live in the world you have created but they are rough. There are holes and it is time for more talk. This is where that “two horses in a trace” phase is handy. This is where we’ll sit together and talk through scenes and dialogue. If it is an action scene we will act it out to make sure it is practical. For instance, there is a scene in Shrouded where the female protagonist hides behind a door ready to whack someone on the head. We acted it out several times to make sure it worked. (Disclaimer: No authors were injured in the creation of this scene.)

The team of three writers (Brent Douglass, John T. Davis and James R. Dennis) who are the alter ego of Miles Arceneaux recently talked about their process at a meeting we attended and we were struck about how similar it is to ours. They wrote their first book, Thin Slide of Life, as a lark and it took years each writing a chapter in turn. Now, after four books, they more easily slip into the skin, and mind, of their phantom author and assume his voice.

Inevitably when more than one hand is writing there will be disagreements. This results in more talk. Make your case. Back off. Hold your ground. Propose solutions. A classic case is from Thin Slice of Life. Would the Texas Ranger take a swig of whisky before the gun battle? One author said, “Of course.” Another said, “No way.” Back and forth they went, until the third author broke the tie. Since we are just two and, therefore, don’t have a tiebreaker we have to find other ways to resolve these kinds of disagreements. So far, we always have because we always go back to what our early mentor, Bill Johnson, wrote in his book A Story is a Promise, “Perceiving that a story is a promise is a cornerstone of the foundation for understanding the art of story telling.” We agree with Johnson and try to honor the promise.

Is the process of writing easier with a partner? No, because writing is, by its very nature, hard and often tedious. No author can avoid the hours of outlining and revision. But if you find a trusted and admired co-conspirator to share the literary journey, to plod along next to, then, my friend, you will always have someone to cheer you on through the disappointments and the successes.

*****

Crime fiction is the fiction of social history. Societies get the crimes they deserve. ~ Denise Mina

*****

An Afternoon with Helen Ginger

Helen Ginger

Helen Ginger, author of DEADPOINT, will be featured at “An Afternoon with the Author” on Sunday, June 25, 2017, from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Willow Terrace, 3801 Berkman Drive, 78723, in the Terrace Room. There will be an author presentation, book signing, and complimentary light bites. RSVP BY June 20 to texnayder@gmail.com or sign-up in Wildflower Terrace Book.

Helen was President of Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter in 1997. She has been a board member and executive director of the Writers League of Texas, and a volunteer chair for the Texas Book Festival.

“About DEADPOINT: A dead maintenance supervisor and an intrusive firebrand preacher have popped up at Hart of Atlantis Park and Aquarium in the Hill Country. Although divorced from Michael Lansing, the park’s security officer, Codie Hart resolves to work with him to protect her family’s business. When a skilled, ritualistic killer arrives to steal newly developed technology and seek revenge on an old enemy, Michael must decide how to protect Codie and the park without reliving his past.”

 

 

*****

A pretty sight, a lady with a book. ~ Shirley Jackson

*****

 

Call to Action: Review!

HOTXSINC’s mission is to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers. We meet monthly, participate in the Texas Book Festival (and, once, the Jewish Book Fair), form critique groups, share works in progress, arrange programming. We organize to help writers.

But are we forgetting something? Sisters in Crime was founded because “books by woman mystery writers also weren’t being reviewed at a percentage equal to their participation in the field.”

The founding Sisters were no doubt referring to reviews written by professional reviewers for larger publications. But for lesser-known authors, especially those just starting their careers, reviews posted by general readers on online review sites are important, too. Many of our member authors fall into this category.

My research, in which I examined online records of four authors, and which took about 90 seconds, showed that Stephen King’s latest novel, released May 16, 2017, has garnered over 2,000 reader reviews.

Books by three newish authors I surveyed had, as much as a year following their release dates, attracted fewer than 100.

Low numbers have nothing to do with quality of writing. The books I checked are page-turners; I know because I’ve read them. But I knew about them because I had inside information. The thousands of potential readers out there don’t know those books exist. And if they see one that has only a few reviews, or maybe none at all, they tend to move on.

Publishers–at last the major ones–send books to reviewers. I imagine Stephen King’s publisher does. And Patricia Cornwell’s. And Mary Higgins Clark’s. Reviewers know their names and act accordingly. Newbie authors, even those with several books on the market, aren’t so fortunate. Their names don’t mean automatic publicity. They have to work harder, which means asking for reviews.

Many authors hate to ask readers to post reviews. It’s the introvert thing. They prefer not to toot their own horns.

Still, they need REVIEWS. They need them asap–especially in the first days after a book’s release. After that–they need more.

Here’s where individual Sisters, even introverts, can make a difference. 

When you read a Sister’s (or Brother’s) book and like it, post a review online. It doesn’t have to be long or sound like a book report. Did you like the book? Say so. What did you like? Who else might enjoy reading it? Rate the book as required, with stars, tomatoes, whatever.

Be sincere. Don’t say you like a book if you don’t.

If there’s something you think doesn’t work so wellIs pacing a little slow at the beginning? Did Dr. Watson marry and then show up living with Holmes again without explaining what happened to his wife? Is Inspector Morse driving you to distraction by eating all those pub lunches when you’ve just pledged to take off ten pounds by next Thursday?–you might mention it, but be gentle and fair and professional. Your review is meant for other readers; it’s not a critique directed at the author.

What if you didn’t like a book? Don’t review it. If you can’t give it at least three stars or tomatoes, don’t comment.

And never trash a book in a review. Trashing just makes the reviewer look bad. It can be devastating for an author. Nobody benefits. See Be sincere, above. Here the Golden Rule applies.*

If you have a personal relationship with the author, don’t mention it. Online review sites, we’ve heard, look askance at reviews–even honest, balanced, unbiased reviews–that are posted by family, friends, or anyone else whose opinion they think might have been influenced by the author. They can also look askance at the author. That’s not good.

Why are reviews important? Online review sites are read by thousands of potential readers. Reviews translate into sales. A book with a long string of reviews, especially soon after release date, catches the online bookseller’s attention. The bookseller might even smile upon the author by handing out perks. I have no idea what perks, but I’ve heard they exist, and that they can boost sales. Perks are very good.

Now. I have written over 700 words. I have used review and reviews 17 times; add reviewer to that, and I’ve probably set a record. I’ve preached to the choir and told you what you already know.

But in case you’ve forgotten–please REVIEW!


*The Golden Rule applies to the rest, too.

*****

Successful people are not interesting. I feel for the losers.
That’s where my heart lies. ~ Karin Fossum

*****

Call for Submissions

The Eyes of Texas
“The editor seeks private eye stories that represent the diversity of the Lone Star State. Stories may be set in West Texas, East Texas, the Mexican border, the Gulf Coast, the Panhandle, or anywhere in-between, and should represent the cultural, ethnic, gender, and political differences found throughout the state.” Details at http://www.crimefictionwriter.com/TheEyesOfTexas.htm

*****

A lie that is half a truth is ever the hardest to fight. ~ Patricia Wentworth

*****

Calendar

6/11/2017 HOTXSINC Meeting
Dr. Douglas Derrer on Hypnosis
@BookPeople

6/15/2017 Writers’ League of Texas
Third Thursday: “Practice Makes Pitch Perfect”
@BookPeople

6/25/2017 Book signing and author presentation
“An Afternoon with the Author” featuring Helen Ginger, author of DEADPOINT
More information, above
@ Wildflower Terrace

6/27/2017 MysteryPeople
UNSUB Discussion and signing, hosted by Meg Gardiner
@MysteryPeople /BookPeople

 

*****

I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense….
But it’s unquestionably good escapist literature and I think I should rather like it
if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter or recovering from flu. ~ Georgette Heyer

*****

 Selected Sites

10 of the Best Sherlock Holmes Stories Everyone Should Read

I’ll Never Forget My First…

The Rap Sheet Intro

In Reference to Murder

Killer Characters

Proofreading Tips Part 1 of 2
Proofreading Tips Part 2 of 2

What Are the Rules?

Sub-Plots and Story

Google Maps: The Best Writing Tools That No One Knows About

*

Thanks to Karleen Koen for sharing the following sites:

53 Ways to Improve Your Short Stories

Q&A: Brian Yansky (on tension and conflict)

How to Spot Toxic Feedback: 7 Signs That the Writing Advice You’re Getting May Do More Harm Than Good

*

Thanks to The Passive Voice for sharing the following sites:

The Wartime Spies Who Used Knitting as an Espionage Tool

Women Booksellers Rule

Walmart Is Asking Employees to Deliver Packages on Their Way Home from Work

Murder on the Orient Express

John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Popular Fiction

Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores Are Not Built For People Who Actually Read

When tweeters attack: why do readers send authors their bad reviews?

Exactly how I self-published my book, sold 180,000 copies, and nearly doubled my revenue

5 types of rest every creative should adopt

*****

Nobody likes to be accused of a virtue. ~ Patricia Wentworth

*****

Nolo Contendere

Members, please email links to your websites and/or blogs to kathywaller1 at gmail dot com so they can be listed in our blogroll. Email your news/announcements to the same address.

Kathy Waller, editor
kathywaller1 at gmail dot com

*****

I wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall in a few Victorian parlours. ~ Sarah Waters

*****

 

 

Heroes, Villains, and Lawyers

Mark Pryor, Billy Kring, and Manning Wolfe spoke at the workshop Heroes, Villains, and Lawyers, presented by MysteryPeople and HOTXSINC Saturday, May 27. After individual presentations, they joined Scott Montgomery for a Q & A session with the audience.

 

Book Review: Soft Target

Wendy Gee reviewed Soft Target by Stephen Hunter.

SOFT TARGET
By Stephen Hunter
Simon & Schuster, 254 pages

Black Friday—ten thousand people jam the aisles, elevators, and glitzy stores of America, the Mall—the country’s largest shopping structure located in suburban Minneapolis. After a gunman’s bullet “hit Santa Clause beneath the left eye,” eleven other gunman open fire. Within minutes, they drive more than a thousand shoppers into the mall’s spacious center atrium, setting up a desperate hostage situation that could lend itself to spectacular demands, mass slaughter, or both.

From this textbook “near perfect” opening, Stephen Hunter taps into a plausible post-9/11 scenario that must keep security experts awake at night. However, the story quickly spirals into a plot so derivative and predictable that only someone who has never read a thriller (or seen any of the DIE HARD series movies) doesn’t how this narrative will play out.

Set during the six hours of the event, SOFT TARGET follows both hostages and gunmen, in an interesting weave detailing the complex strategic police response, media saturation coverage, and the politics of SWAT as both the Minnesota State Police and the FBI struggle to deal with the unfolding crisis. Despite the expected cluster of gun-toting teenage Muslim terrorists and a hate-wracked imam yanked straight from central casting and the FBI’s watch list, the nihilistic computer-game designer intent on creating the ultimate first person shooter game is a decent twist.

The clichéd trope of villains and heroes are given equal treatment. The protagonist—Asian-American Ray Cruz—sniper extraordinaire, is a cutout so unenthusiastic that he is easily upstaged by a tough young woman from the projects with whom he teams. The villains, both the perpetrators of the central crime and the police and civilian bureaucrats who create requisite problems for the hero to overcome, are particularly buffoonish, while the story’s politics are patently recognizable.

SOFT TARGET is a weak addition to Stephen Hunter’s sniper series, made barely engaging by its appeal to current events and political posturing. I join his many fans in hoping this novel was only written because he lost a bet with his agent or bartender.