Ghost Lake: A Preview!

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Ghost Lake: The mists rise at dusk.

A few years ago I posted a story about a ghostly lake near my house. One or two comments suggested I develop the theme into a novel. I agreed that I could see the potential, but I was still focused on Murdered Justice, which was still a few months from being released. I was so thrilled to have signed with W & B Publishers, and I’d already begun researching and making notes for Pennington’s Hoax. I’d jotted down some possible ideas for books three and four of Maggie Lyon’s adventures, but none of those plots had her anywhere near what could easily turn out as a gothic mystery. Maggie deals with crime, conspiracy, and international intrigue. She’s not likely to find herself in a haunted house with a flashlight.

However, in real life I continued driving through the spectral mists while imagining the many possible creatures that could spring from the bushes onto the road. All sorts of criminals could be lurking within the brush, but I couldn’t see Maggie willingly leaving New York for haunted wetlands in the Pacific Northwest. As I was preparing to send Pennington’s Hoax to the publisher, I had an idea. Maggie wouldn’t “willingly” find herself living in the woods, but she might be convinced to give it a try. Pennington’s Hoax got a new ending, and readers will soon have a new installment of the Maggie Lyon Mysteries. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Ghost Lake.

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Ghost Lake: A Maggie Lyon Mystery Coming Soon!

I changed into my hiking boots and decided to venture into the woods now that the rains had stopped for a couple of weeks and our bothersome handyman wasn’t around to stop me from exploring. If I ran across any wildlife, I hoped that it would be more scared of me than I was of it.

I expected that the brambles and vines would trip me up, but to my surprise there was a recently mowed trail that descended along the property line at a steady incline. There were giant firs to my right, and alders under-planted with hazelnuts and elderberry to my left. I couldn’t begin to count the various types of ferns, and I had an immediate sense of satisfaction that many people would pay good money and wait years to enjoy a native landscape like this. Even though the summer dry season had finally arrived, it was cool beneath the canopy. Vine maples at eye level, yellow maples towering above me.

I paused intermittently to examine the wild blackberries prior to ripening. In the densest part of the woods there were the last of the bleeding hearts and some other pink and purple flowers whose names I didn’t know. I spotted a wild rose before coming upon an apple tree in a clearing that still produced fruit in spite of limited sunlight.

There was movement in the bushes to my left, and I immediately turned. At the edge of the clearing, there was a doe with her fawn. The infant’s vibrant white spots stood out on its coat. The pair studied me, and I stood still to see how long they’d linger. We heard a hawk, and that caused them to dash further into the thicket.

I was delighted to discover a seasonal creek running through our property. I was positive that when the rains returned it would be challenging to cross this tributary. I wasn’t sure where it led, but most likely to the Lewis River. Perhaps it had once fed into Hathaway Lake – the ghost lake. I planned to hike the stream one day to find out where it ended. In the meantime, I trekked further and finally reached another clearing under the canopy. My husband Mark-Mario had been telling me that Greg the handyman had been working very hard at reclaiming the property’s neglected areas, but I couldn’t see that the man had done anything more than maintain this one long trail.

I looked around for a place to sit and enjoy nature, but wasn’t keen to sit on the ground. I proceeded further down the slope, trying not to think about the challenging up-hill climb that faced me on my return. The trail narrowed as I came to what I thought was the bottom. Greg had obviously used the tractor’s brush hog for the widest swaths, but the narrowness of the path before me was no wider in my estimation than a riding lawnmower.

Why had Greg meticulously maintained this trail at the property’s edge while warning me like a little girl in a fairy tale to beware of the dangers lurking within the forest? It stood to reason that there was an invisible food chain living in the woods. The deer would draw wolves or wildcats; possibly both. Smaller predators would seek out smaller prey, and while this ecosystem was clearly functioning, I sensed no danger. Perhaps I was too ignorant and foolish.

In movie theaters, audiences scream at the person on the screen to turn back. “Don’t go in there!” I could almost hear an audience in another dimension telling me to go back home as I plodded forward. The trail tapered into a path of hacked out bramble, and in spite of the dry season, there was moist ground beneath my feet. The organic redolence of decayed fallen trees hung in the air, and I breathed pure oxygen. I would’ve turned back, but I wanted more time in nature before I had to return to the problems that required my attention.

My feet sunk into the earth, and I pushed on a branch to steady my balance. I lifted myself to a spot just ahead, and I realized there was an old gate not too far beyond. It was made of metal; wood would have rotted over the years. Of course, the metal wasn’t faring too well, so I guessed that the gate was at least 40 years old. It wasn’t closed so I passed through it.

I stood underneath a trestle. Behind me was the forest’s dense canopy, but opening before me was tall and wide as if I were stepping into a cathedral. I could hear an occasional car overhead, and there was a trickle of water coming from somewhere. I looked back to see where I’d come from. I might have stepped into another dimension, and I didn’t want my way back to fade into the rest of the foliage leaving me trapped.

At that point I should have turned around. I was no longer on my property, but I was curious. I moved into a thick section of tall grass. I stepped in mud, and everywhere I turned I seemed to bog down to my ankles. My boots were ruined, but I continued until I emerged into an open field. I was in the marshes. I was standing in Ghost Lake, and before me was the yellow police tape marking off the area where they’d found that poor girl.

© 2019 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, especially the three featuring Maggie Lyon, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

 

 

 

Maggie Lyon: Another Interesting Woman

Murdered Justice by Patrick Brown is available from W&B Publishers, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Murdered Justice has been out for over a month, and I’ve been enjoying the feedback from friends and readers who’ve reached out to me. Investigative journalist Maggie Lyon is the star of the show in spite of the fact that the murdered justice she’s investigating was the longest serving justice on the United States Supreme Court.

One of the things I seem to hear most is that “Maggie is so relatable.” While I might not be actually hearing this comment the most, it’s the one I remember above all others because I hoped people would like her in the same way you hope all your old friends like your new friend when they finally meet. Fingers crossed that everyone gets along.

Maggie is likable as well as relatable. She’s obviously ambitious and she possesses a certain amount of strength, but in the pages of Murdered Justice, she reveals her vulnerability. She wants to “get it right,” but her success doesn’t come without setbacks, putting her foot wrong and second-guessing her theories. She’s also a bit naïve while simultaneously cynical about other matters. Toward the end of the book, you’ll discover that she’s both fierce and resourceful when forced to come out fighting.

Someone asked me how I thought her up, but I can’t seem to recall a specific date or moment when she emerged in my mind. I had been considering writing in the mystery genre, and I knew I’d need a sleuth. Women are much more interesting to write about, so I knew my “detective” wouldn’t be a man.

We hear about the limited roles for women onscreen, and if you’ve ever discussed the imbalances of stage time with female comics, which I have, you wonder why that’s the case because in my experience women are more interesting, more entertaining, and they’re certainly funnier.

I was raised on television and I love film. Looking through my personal list of favorites, there are way more women featured than men. When comparing male and female detectives, The Thin Man series comes to mind. Nick Charles portrays a day-drinking, funny detective who was written and directed as the hero, but it’s his wife Nora, portrayed by Myrna Loy, who has the best retorts, the wardrobe, the money, the emotional depth, and the best backstory. William Powell has some good moments throughout the series, but my attention always goes to Loy while left wondering, “How did HE manage to get HER?”

I’d rather see a verbal confrontation in those final scenes of The Women rather than explosions, special effects and physical brawls in action films. I much prefer Dame Maggie Smith putting someone down as the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey or Tracey Ullman imitating Maggie Smith to an action hero blowing up a building or a male comic discussing his bathroom habits.

Perhaps society still allows women more freedom of expression than men, which results in more interesting characters, but there should never be limited opportunities or roles for women. While I may never understand my personal preference for women on stage, on film and in books, I’m happy to have created Maggie Lyon, and I hope to bring more of her adventures to the readers who have discovered her and have decided they like her.

Watch the book trailer for Murdered Justice, which has been published by W&B Publishers, and is available through them, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and independent booksellers everywhere.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

 

Murdered Justice: A sneak-peak

Murdered Justice has been released since my last post. I’ve been getting some wonderful messages from people telling me they’ve gotten the book and are enjoying it. For them, this post may seem like a rerun, but for everyone else, I’m hoping you’ll become as excited as I am about Maggie Lyon and her investigation into the death of United States Supreme Court Justice Vittorio Scarpia.

Maggie Lyon has been dying to uncover a national scandal, but she’s been typecast as a food writer longer than she would have liked. In Maggie’s words:

New restaurants live in fear of my visits, but those who’ve earned my praise roll out the red carpet when I sweep through. I admit it’s a glamorous life, and it beats covering hurricanes, floods and terrorism. I might have been doing my job with the nagging desire to uncover a sinister plot, but at least I was dining in fabulous restaurants all over the country on someone else’s dime.

Once my newspaper column became syndicated, I was getting calls for Chicago, New York, Seattle, Miami and California wine country. I was becoming a regular guest on travel shows, televised cooking competitions and Food Network episodes.

My agent Rina Akin informed me of an interesting opportunity having to do with a young British chef on the rise. She put me in touch with the person who identified himself as the American publicist, and the young chef was to be cooking in a private home in one of the exclusive Los Angeles neighborhoods. They were hoping for a profile piece, which would include descriptions of his food by someone with expertise to help launch his career over here. Would I be willing to join the party? It would mean staying the weekend in a seven-bedroom mansion in Fairmont Place, Los Angeles’s oldest gated community.

I agreed at once without considering the fee. I was familiar with the exteriors of homes in Radnor Square from research I’d done while writing about some of the restaurants on Larchmont Blvd. To have the opportunity to spend a weekend in a mansion where the food held some promise was particularly appealing. That I didn’t have to rent a car and only had to show up for meals while dressing the part was even better…

It was April, and the night was cool, so I had a light wrap, which the young man took from me as I walked west into a living room the size of a grand hotel lobby. There were sofas and occasional tables all around, a silent Steinway in the furthest corner, and a portable bar where another waiter was pouring Veuve Clicquot into coupe glasses for the guests who’d arrived before me…

There was no sign of a host or hostess for quite a while as I introduced myself to another guest and tried to break the awkward silence…

There was a bit of commotion in the foyer, and in a flash of color our Angeleno hosts materialized before us. Carlos Ortiz was a very handsome man, but short, and made to look even shorter when standing next to his domestic partner Rae Sartain, Miss Alabama 1990-something… I recognized Carlos, as I had lived in Texas long enough to know about the energy business…

While we waited on the final guest to arrive, Rae got our attention. “You gals come with me! We got some time and I wanna show you ’round since you’re gonna be stayin’ with us for a while.” We gals exchanged glances and followed her. “We’ll start with the cute little room down the hall with all the books!” She was either describing a library or a storage closet.

It was a library, but it was no longer as the original owners of the house had intended. The mahogany paneling had been tampered with unsuccessfully, and the leather-bound volumes of an earlier age had been replaced with best sellers, celebrity biographies and unsold copies of Rae’s book about beauty pageants. The area above the fireplace, which had surely held an expensive oil painting or a portrait at one time, was taken up by a wide-screen television, and if there had ever been leather club chairs left to develop a marvelous patina, the room was now filled with modern recliners from some orthopedic store…

“When you shut these doors, you can’t hear a thing. It makes the perfect room to take a moment away from all the hustle and bustle just to sit and read. I do it every time one of my magazines comes in the mail…”

With the library doors closed, we’d not heard the bell, so a nervous man in an ill-fitting suit appeared and informed us that the final guest had arrived and dinner was being served as soon as we could meet the gentlemen in the foyer…

Was that who I thought it was? …Justice Vittorio Scarpia of the United States Supreme Court took his seat across from Carlos. We were in august company. I don’t think my agent had any indication I’d be dining with someone so elite…

“Justice,” said Carlos. “I was telling the group before you arrived that I’ll be launching a new energy campaign in October. We have the summer to iron out the kinks, and we’ll be fine-tuning marketing strategies by Labor Day.”

Justice Scarpia had no interest in renewable energy. He’d already ruled in favor of oil companies and corporations, and he knew who’d placed him on the bench even if that old politician was long gone from Washington and younger party members had no memory of him. He nodded and took turns chewing and drinking wine.

“Justice,” said Carlos, “I’d like to get your opinion about the Abilene Controversy working its way through the courts.”

“Mr. Ortiz!” the Justice shouted. He then lowered his voice, but it remained strong. “Surely you did not extend your hospitality to me so that I might provide you with opinions on matters, which may or may not reach the highest court in the land and have some bearing on how you proceed with your business. I don’t give a damn about windmills and all this talk of harnessing the sun… I suggest you change the subject and stop dominating this table… Even the lawyers who argue before me stop for breath occasionally, and certainly more frequently than you have done tonight. It’s been a long day, and if we don’t talk about something other than you and your business, I’m afraid I’ll have to retire for the evening.”

To read more, Murdered Justice is published by W&B Publishers, and is available through them, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and independent booksellers everywhere.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

Meet Justice Vittorio Scarpia

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“Murdered Justice” coming from W&B Publishers in March 2017

I’m delighted that Murdered Justice is being released while our eyes are drawn to the confirmation hearings of the high court’s latest nominee. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag by telling you that United States Supreme Court Justice Vittorio Scarpia falls prey to a murderer in the early part of my latest book, but the current hearings remind us how differently candidates are publicly scrutinized compared to the era when the fictional Scarpia was confirmed.

So little is known about the personal lives of SCOTUS justices, especially decades after their appointments and subsequent confirmations. At one time, we might have known something about Vittorio Scarpia’s five children and his wife Angela, but at his death, his family had been out of the public spotlight for over 30 years if they’d ever been in it in the first place.

Confirmation hearings in our politically contentious modern age require spouses and families to stand next to presidential nominees to the high court and appear wholesome and normal while their images are broadcast across all media. They must provide a picture of a loving, competent family that seems to have been transported from an earlier time while the candidate appears impartial and not too eager to sound off on issues that indicate activism in any particular direction on the political scale. Former students and clerks will emerge to accuse or defend prior statements and experiences, and previous rulings will be downplayed or highlighted by whichever senators feel strongly about a case’s subsequent effects.

Once they’re in place for life and a season or two passes into history, these robed scholars are dehumanized by that portion of American society, which categorizes SCOTUS rulings as Left or Right, as though they were filling in spreadsheets. Together, the justices are a ruling body, but separately no one considers that they eat, sleep and get dressed like everyone else.

Unless a justice dozes off during a State of the Union address and mentions having drunk too much wine at dinner, no one considers that such an esteemed person could be subject to human foibles. For a brief moment, we wonder if they have cell phones and take selfies with each other in chambers. On Monday mornings, do they chat about their weekends? Do they burst out laughing when the Chief Justice trips over a misplaced wastebasket when walking around his desk? Do they enjoy listening through the door as the Chief Justice berates the person who moved the wastebasket?

Our idea is that they are a humorless bunch of intellectuals unless we happen to see them on a news show when their latest book is profiled. A reporter might then be able to coax them into opening their refrigerator or telling us what book they’re reading “for fun,” and for a moment we find them relatable but never someone “you’d want to have a beer with.”

When the unexpected death of Justice Vittorio Scarpia is announced, we realize how much we never knew about the man. He wasn’t the type to let people into his private life. We are reminded that he was the longest serving member of the United States Supreme Court.

Appointed in 1979 at the age of forty-four, Scarpia was considered too young to serve. His nomination was controversial, not only because of his age, but due to the political climate of the times. Expected to make unbiased judgments, the opposition party believed the president was appointing an activist who would vote left of center on the issues of the day, but through a renewal with his commitment to the Catholic church and, some say, his devotion to secret societies within the Church, he surprised many court watchers over the next three-and-a-half decades with masterfully written dissents when his views differed from that of the majority. He was known for his quick wit, his legal acumen and his love of debate.

Murdered Justice is coming from W&B Publishers, and in its pages you’ll get a more personal look at Justice Scarpia and find out how he spent his last remaining hours.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1