BOOK REVIEW: Murder at the Driskill by Kathleen Kaska

Posted by Ryder Islington, author of Ultimate Justice, a Trey Fontaine Mystery, and coming this spring, Ultimate Game, a Trey Fontaine Mystery.   What a fun read! Kathleen Kaska’s Murder at the Driskill is a mystery set in 1953 Austin, Texas. The city and the era in combination, are a character, and that character is charming. Then there is Sydney Lockhart. Sydney is da’bomb! She’s a newspaper reporter and also a P.I. who works with her man, Ralph Dixon, a former police detective. Their partner, Billy, reminds me of Superman’s sidekick, Jimmy. And there’s one more character you have to meet: Sydney’s cousin, Ruth. This woman is a gem. There are several other characters. Victims, suspects, and friends and relatives of both. When a potential client invites Dixon to an event at the Driskill Hotel, Dixon brings Sydney and Billy. But before they’re actually hired, a murder occurs and voila, the mystery is born. Kathleen Kaska has a way of bringing her characters to life, giving them likes and dislikes, interesting opinions, and quirks that made me smile, and sometimes frown. One thing I’m sure of, I’ll be visiting these old friends over and over. Below you’ll find more details about Kathleen Kaska and Murder at the Driskill.

Murder at the driskill

Murder at the Driskill by Kathleen Kaska It is 1953 in Austin where Sydney and her detective boyfriend Ralph Dixon have just opened their own private investigation agency. They quickly land a high profile case to investigate one Leland Tatum, a businessman about to launch a campaign for Texas governor. The focus of the case changes drastically when Tatum is shot to death in his room at the Driskill Hotel where he was about to announce his campaign. The Texas gumshoes suddenly find themselves in the middle of the murder investigation along with an unwanted amateur sleuth, the daughter of one of the suspects who is out to clear her father’s name.     2DSC_0050 copy


Kathleen Kaska, writer of fiction, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays, has just completed her most challenging endeavor. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane:The Robert Porter Allen Story, a true story set in the 1940s and 50s, is about Audubon ornithologist Robert Porter Allen whose mission was to journey into the Canadian wilderness to save the last flock of whooping cranes before encroaching development wiped out their nesting site, sending them into extinction. Published by University Press of Florida, the book is scheduled for release in 2012. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first mystery, Murder at the Arlington, won the 2008 Salvo Press Manuscript Contest. This book, along with her second mystery, Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Before bringing Sydney into the world of murder and mayhem, Kaska published three mystery-trivia books, (The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. All three books were reissued in May 2012 by LL Publications.
You can find more info about Kathleen Kaska and her books at

FREE BOOK AND GUEST POST: On Fathers and Sons by Drexel Deal

Posted by Ryder Islington, author of Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, and coming in the spring of 2015: Ultimate Game, A Trey Fontaine Mystery

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to author Drexel Deal, who has written a book about young men who end up in gangs, and in prison, and how the absence of a father figure multiplies this phenomenon. Below you’ll also find links to two short videos as well as access to a free chapter, and also a way to get a FREE E-COPY of the book.

And now, meet Drexel Deal:

Guest Post: On Fathers and Sons

Have you ever wondered why some students find it difficult to focus on their school work, even though they have the potential to do better?  Do you want to know what is the major home condition that produces at risk youth? Do you want to know what is the major condition that gives birth to violent street gangs? Have you ever tried to figure out, how prisons convert youngsters into remorseless monsters?

The answers and more for the above behaviors, can be found in my book entitled: The Fight of My Life is Wrapped up in My Father.  This book is a candid and riveting portrait about the birth of the Rebellion Raiders, which was the largest street gang ever in the history of The Bahamas. Why were so many young men and myself drawn to this gang? How did we go from innocence to menacing and from youngsters to monsters?

As you would discover in your reading, this book go way beyond me just sharing my testimony; rather, it’s an experience of a life time. With more than 12 years of researching and studying why young people go astray, this book possess a vast data base of real life stories or teachable moments that is second to none. They will provide your blog readers with a reference base of proven solutions in addressing problematic youth, that are all base on Biblical principles. These stories not only entertain and fascinate the reader, but they also sharpen existing skills which is the true purpose of storytelling!

Thus, the central theme of this book is prevention, by making parents and others aware of the many real life pit falls and ditches that await a problematic  child: some of which are impossible to climb out from. My book takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride, where I wrap the lessons, the warnings and the principles in short entertaining and unforgettable stories.

I guess this is why the former Assistant Commissioner of Police Hulan Hanna, of the Royal Bahamas Police Force can say that my story is: “Wonderful, fascinating and one that resonates with young people.”

You can read chapter one free at this link:

Keep reading to learn how to receive a free e-copy of

The Fight of My Life is Wrapped up in My Father

What makes my book so unique?

When I set out to write my first book I was not interested in writing about my life on the streets. Rather, I was interested in learning, why did I and so many other thousands of young men went astray? Thus I have been fortunate to sit down with individuals who were once my rivals, these are individuals whom I shot before and those I attempted to shoot. I have also sat down with those who shot me and those who attempted to kill me: one of them I even dub to be the godfather of
street gangs in The Bahamas. However, during my interviews with these individuals even though blind, I discovered that we all shared the same upbringing, the same home conditions and the same abandonment/ rejection by our fathers.

More importantly, I continue to discover through my research and interviews with gang leaders, drug dealers and death row inmates that we were all preventable. We were the disconnected children who rebelled, even though we lived in different areas and were apart of different gangs: we all were the first generation of the rebellions in The Bahamas.

I have also been fortunate to interview educators such as Mr. Charles Chuck Mackey [former VP and respected coach of R. M. Bailey Senior High School.] As well as Mrs. Vinita Curtis now deceased, a former primary school teacher for more than 28 years. Not to mention, one of the top school psychologists in The Bahamas, Ms. Daynette Gardiner from the Lyford Cay School. A long with police officers, youth pastors and psychologists.

See why a lot of people are talking about this candid youtube interview:

 Have you ever wondered what are the REAL ROOT causes for violent

crimes? Please see this telling YouTube video below:

To receive a free copy of:

The Fight of My Life is Wrapped up in My Father

contact author Drexel Deal:
You can also learn more about Drexel at his website:

Testimonials and Reviews:

Good morning Mr. Deal:
I purchased your book at Chapter one about a month ago and although I
have not had time to complete it, I can tell you it is one of the most
honest, insightful and empowering books that I have ever read.
I would love to arrange for you to come and speak to our youth at
The Red Cross After-care centre on Blue Hill Road if you had the time
to do so.
Many thanks,

Shelagh Pritchard
Chairperson of Lignum Vitae Centre
Monday, September 29th 2014

Good day Mr. Drexel Deal:
This book The Fight of My Life Is Wrapped up in My Father is indeed
a well written, comprehensive, and intriguing composition. I truly
enjoyed reading this book and it was extremely hard for me to put it
down. This book definitely gave me much better prospective regarding
delinquent and violent teens. Mr. Deal you were very good in providing
the historical background of gangs in Nassau, Bahamas as well as the
importation of illegal firearms. I liked your style of writing and how
you presented the information in a clear and meticulous manner with
solid references and great research.

I would recommend this book especially to male teenagers as well as
parents to give them a better understanding of why teens rebel at
times and the actions one would need to take to provide crucial
assistance in such times.

I truly enjoyed this book and can’t wait for your next book.
When are you releasing the second part of this book?
Thanks much and keep up the good work and may the Lord God Almighty
keep you safe and bless you immensely in Jesus name Amen!

Javon Johnson/
Tuesday, May 13th 2014

Hello Mr. Deal.
I finally got around to purchasing your book online and spent my
evening reading it to the end.

Your book also finally explained to me the shift I noticed in this
society in the early 90s. I graduated high school in 1988 and in the
early 90s began seeing young men with grimaces on their faces acting
the fool, most likely because they were strapped. I remember the
incident you talk about which occurred at Junkanoo. I was there.

The Junkanoo incident is memorable because it was the first time that
my eyes were opened to the menace of the gang culture. At the time I
didn’t know what or who the Rebellions were but I remember the shock
and fear that went through the crowd. My friends and I ended up
leaving that part of the parade route all together. When I read your
account of that night, I get chills because I and my friends didn’t
realize the danger.

I became a stenographer in 1996 and as I sat in court listening to
case after case against young men from over the hill communities, I
couldn’t figure out for the life of me why so many of our young men
were entering and remaining in the system. They were so young. They
seemed to revel in the fact that they caught a case. Some days in
court one young man would have up to 30 armed robbery cases against
him. During the breaks, I would talk with them. I realized that they
weren’t necessarily evil people, just lost and caught up in thugging.
I didn’t kid myself though because I knew that if they had the
opportunity I would and could be a target.

You are correct that what we experienced and are experiencing as a
nation is due to absent fathers and tolerant, poor mothers creating
lives for children where abuse and deprivation take a toll on the
psyche of the children. But what I wanted to point out to you is that
our young ladies are angry too, and for the very same reason that our
young men are angry – absent fathers, poor struggling mothers who lack
the skills to raise fully socialized children. Poverty is a major
factor. But so is the poor decision making of our females.

There must be a solution, of course, and my prayer is that the women
of this country get the message that they have the power to change
allot of what is wrong.

Be at peace.
Odecca Gibson
Senior Staff Attorney at Bahamar
Friday, July 11th 2014

Hello Drexel,
Awesome. A riveting story of Real Life. I am touched by just reading
what you shared. It’s a compelling book that you just can’t stop
reading. A must read for All: young and old, male and female. You need
to tell the world this story.

Colyn Major
College counselor at the College of The Bahamas
Friday, August 8th 2014

Hi Mr. Deal,
I purchase a copy of your book which I think should be made available
to reach all of the young men/women in all of the schools in The
Bahamas. It is quite inspiring!!
Wishing you much success in all of your endeavours. I recently (3
weeks ago) lost my mother (who was both mother and father) to me and
my siblings.

May God continue to richly bless you and your family!

Lynne Hanna
Executive Assistant at Clipper Group [Management] Ltd.
Tuesday, September 2nd 2014

Mr. Deal
I am a prison sergeant and when you came up to the prison a few months
ago to present your book. You were being led by Mr. Carlos Reid. I was
told who you were and when you left I was given your book by Miss
Sweeting the education officer at the prison. I open the book and
begin to read it and could not put it down for some reason. You got my
attention from the start from your first robbery to you finding out
your father was not your real father, you also talk about the

Rebellions and when you went to Junkanoo with the brothers. Some parts
of the book you had me in stitches but most of all you open my eyes to
the real world. God Bless you Mr. Deal and I hope others get the
chance to read the book because I can’t wait on the next one to be publish.

Sergeant Gregory Williams, of Her Majesty Prison
Tuesday, June 3rd 2014

This last review comes from an American inmate from Her Majesty Prison, who has since been released…

Dear Mr. Deal,
My name is Kenneth Wayne Smith and I have just now finished
reading your very insightful book, The Fight of My Life Is Wrapped Up
In My Father.

I am presently remanded in H.M.P Fox Hill South Wing Cell H-12.
My journey which led me to be here is different than yours, although a
gun and some very poor decisions by me put me here.  I am a Yachty as
I am referred to here who was traveling through the Bahamas out to
fulfill a lifelong dream.  I did not declare my weapon when clearing
customs as I was traveling with one for the first time and just plain
forgot I had it.

The series of events that unfolded in Nassau began
with a domestic issue with my girl who suffers from Bi-Polar disease.
During one of her episodes she hailed the police, informed them of my
weapon onboard and sent my life spiraling out of control.  My personal
nightmare is how I describe it.

But this is not the reason for my letter.
God tells us everything happens for a reason.  Well I believe he
does.  And although I believe and pray and try to live by the Golden
Rules, I am not as well versed in the Bible as you seem to be.  Life
is a journey and I will learn along the way.  My reason for writing is
to thank you for sharing your experiences in life and giving me
insight into the Bahamian culture and the reasons children are drawn
to the gang mentality.  I agree with your analogies completely.

As I am sure you well know this place.   I guess we can call it a
place but certainly not a place I would ever want to return to.  Yet I
am compelled to try and make a difference in the lives of my fellow
inmates.  It’s extremely hard to ignore the inhumanity that goes on
here, especially for someone who is from a middle class family who
grew up in the Boston, MA., USA area with a complete family unit and
also at the age of 57.

I will say the boating life has somewhat prepared me to deal with
the small confined areas maybe better than most. The secret for me so
far is to block out my outside life (very difficult) and live in my
surroundings but most importantly reading. So after 26 days here I
believe I have found the path to receiving books for myself but most
importantly some of the other inmates.

It started when my lawyer brought me a book while I waited in the holding
cell for court at Central Police Station. When I returned to Fox Hill Prison
It was taken away and I was told my lawyer should know better than to give me
a book. Nothing comes in unless it clears proper channels. LOL.

Anyway, I asked the P.O. again nicely. He looked it over and handed
it back to me. That book lasted me 3 days and supplied me with 3 days
of “Roadtime”, the term used here for Freedom. I noticed during my
time in the Court holding cell 2 or 3 inmates had shown interest in
what I was reading.

One was clearly illiterate but fortunately this
book had some pictures and a map so I showed him where the adventure
took place then showed him the pictures. He later wanted to share his
lunch with me. I have found the Bahamians I have met since being
remanded are very giving souls willing to share what they have with
me, a white boy from Boston, and it has been most appreciated for this
“Fish out of Water”, as a guard referred to me.

I started my quest to get books to read not just for me but for
everyone who wanted to read as I had been continually asked if they
could read my book when I was done. I passed it down the Block and
after 2 weeks I have received 2 thank yous.

I then started to ask the officers for another book, anything I
said, “Sure, see what I can do”. Days went by. I continued to ask at
any opportunity. Not easy when locked down 23 1/2 hrs a day, 4 days a
week and 24 hrs a day, 3 days a week, except on holiday you get an
extra lockdown day.

Then at exercise I asked the officers outside at
their desk, 3 or 4 higher up officers, if there was a library. “Oh
sure”, “Could I get a book?”, “What kind of book?”, “History,
non-fiction, adventure, anything”. I was overheard by the officer in
charge of the library. “I will get you a book, what cell are you in?”
“H-12”. So that afternoon a book shows up but it was some book about
gang members without fathers, written by someone called Drexel Deal?

Well so much for history, non-fiction, adventure. But I said I will
read anything right! So read it I did and it was everything I asked
for. Although not the adventure story I was seeking but none the less
a good read written from a true experience. The next day I thanked
the officer and also asked if he had read the book? The answer was,
no, but they all talked about how you were here and such. So I told
them about what I had read and shared some of the quotes you used.

My favorite is the Nelson Mandella quote about the judging of nations by
their prisons. Another was Jesse Jackson’s, of children needing your
presence more than presents. They all looked around and agreed then
one asked “where can I get copy of that book”? I told him he could
swing by H-12 and I would lend him my copy. We laughed. Then I told
them I believed the officer in charge of the library said you left some
copies behind.

I then went on to share how there was much interest around the block of
books and would it be possible for some of the other guys to get a book.
“Hmmm? We’ll see”. About 3 hours later, 3 large boxes of books
showed up at our cell. “You can pick first White Boy, sign the book” – O.k.
Then another guy in my cell stepped up to select a book. And so it went down
the line, cell after cell as each cell signed out a book.

I smiled and prayed this becomes the norm and the books are treated properly.
My cellmate has been telling me all day what a good book he chose and which
chapter he was on. I smiled again, happy for him. I will pass your book onto
the officer and hope he reads it too!

So maybe I have found my calling for now to help Fox Hill turn
out a more literate, open minded, better educated person. Maybe one
of these books will open up the mind of a lost soul and show them
there is a better way to go about life then to sit and rot in Fox

Put their past behind them and create a brighter future for
their families, their sons & daughters and themselves. And, hopefully
we can end this curse of the broken family unit and turn things around
so we may all benefit and learn to live together as free, proud,
citizens watching our children grow to men in a safe, happy

God Bless,

Kenneth Wayne Smith 

Cell H-12 Fox Hill

University of Yamacraw
P. S. I would of e-mailed this, but the internet is down here.
Ho-Ho-Ho!  Looking forward to Book 2.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kathleen Kaska author of Murder at the Driskill, The Sydney Lockhart Mysteries

Posted by Ryder Islington, Author of Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, and coming soon: Ultimate Game, A Trey Fontaine Mystery.

I consider it an honor to be able to interview Kathleen Kaska. If you’ve visited her blog or read her books, then you know how talented she is. Below the interview is a beautiful cover of her latest book, Murder at the Driskill, along with a blurb, and also, Kathleen’s bio. I hope all of you enjoy having Kathleen here as much as I do. So, here we go:

Murder at the Driskill is the fourth book in your Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series. How did the story come about?

All my Sydney Lockhart mysteries are set in the 1950s in different historic hotels. Since Sydney is a reporter, she is often sent out of town for several days on assignment, which gives me a great excuse for checking her into hotels. I felt it was time to have Sydney solve a murder (or two) in her hometown of Austin, Texas.

  1. The are several historic hotels in Austin. Why choose the Driskill Hotel for your setting?

Austin was my home for twenty-five years. When my husband and I decided to downsize, we sold our house and moved into a high rise near the state capitol. I loved living in downtown Austin. After I got home from work, I’d tuck my car away in the parking garage, and my husband and I would walk to the Driskill bar for a cocktail on our way to dinner at one of Austin’s many eateries. On the weekends, I’d stop by the hotel, order coffee, pull out my laptop and start writing. It was only natural that I feature this gorgeous old hotel in one of my mysteries.

  1. One of the characters in Murder at the Driskill is a twelve-year-old girl named Lydia who is an intellectual challenge for Sydney. Lydia often dresses up like Sherlock Holmes. Why did you add this element to the story?

Like all of my characters, they come to me and insist upon me writing them into the story. I have little to do with who they are or how they behave. Lydia appeared in the first few pages and refused to go away. Her father owned a live theatre in Austin, and Lydia often finagled her way onto the stage. When her father was suspected of murder and went on the lam, Lydia took over running the theatre. The company was in the middle of rehearsing an original play called “Hamlet at the Alamo.” Lydia became disgruntled with the production and changed it to “Sherlock Holmes at the Alamo.” She also gave herself the lead role. It was like opening Pandora’s Box. Once she donned the Holmes’ costume, she decided she was smart enough to solve the murder and save her father. Sydney had different ideas.

I’m also a Holmes fanatic; this might have had something to do with it too.

  1. Sydney has recently declared herself a private investigator, although she is still working as a reporter. Both professions are unusual or rare for woman in the early 1950s. What made you decide to give your protagonist two challenging jobs?

I love writing about independent women who take risks. The 1950s was a decade of opportunity for women. Sydney’s reporting naturally led to investigating murders. In some of these cases, she was the main suspect, which meant finding the real killer to save her own skin. I also wanted to make life a bit difficult for her. Working as a reporter and an investigator causes great conflicts and leads to discord in Murder at the Driskill.

  1. Both you can Sydney were science teachers at one time. Do you share any other professions?

Although Sydney and I both worked for newspapers, the job I had was not as exciting as hers. She got to write about murders. I worked in the display-advertising department. The most exciting thing I did was to draw clothes on the scantily dressed women in the X-rated movie ads before they went to press. This was in the early 1970s in Waco, Texas. You gotta love it!

Now here’s a taste of Murder at the Driskill.

500_Murder at the Driskill_mockup01

You’d think that newspaper reporter Sydney Lockhart, comfortable at home in Austin, Texas, could stay away from hotels and murders therein. But when she and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, hang out a shingle for their new detective agency, they immediately land a high-profile case, which sends them to the swanky Driskill Hotel. Businessman Stringer Maynard has invited them to a party to meet his partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, who’s about to announce his candidacy for governor. Maynard needs their help because Tatum is hanging out with the wrong crowd and jeopardizing his chances for winning the election. Before Sydney can finish her first martini, a gunshot sounds and Leland Tatum is found murdered in a suite down   the hall.


2DSC_0050 copy

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series.Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press                                                                                 of Florida) was published in 2012.

You can check out Kathleen’s blog at

SHOWCASE: Fail by Rick Skwiot

Posted by Ryder Islington, Author of ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, and coming soon: ULTIMATE GAME, A Trey Fontaine Mystery




by Rick Skwiot

on Tour at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours Oct 13 – Nov 14, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Blank Slate Press

Publication Date: October 27, 2014

Number of Pages: 220

ISBN: 978-0985808686

Purchase Links:



Disgraced African American St. Louis Police Lieutenant Carlo Gabriel wants fiercely to return to the headquarters hierarchy from which he has been exiled to the city’s tough North Side. All he needs do is track down the missing husband of the mayor’s vivacious press secretary. Instead he unwittingly and unwillingly unearths a morass of corruption, educational malpractice and greed that consigns thousands of at-risk youths to the mean streets of America’s erstwhile murder capital. Worse, it’s the kind of information that could get a cop killed.

Fighting for life and his honor, Gabriel makes chilling discoveries that ultimately lead to a life-threatening and life-changing decision—a choice that could affect not only his own future but also that of the city and its top leaders.



“Rick Skwiot proves himself a master weaver who deftly knits the threads of this suspense tale into a compelling—and surprising—conclusion. In short, Fail succeeds, and does so with compassion.”

–Michael A. Kahn, award-winning author of Face Value and The Flinch Factor.

“Chicago has Scott Turow, Boston Dennis Lehane, LA James Elroy. Finally St. Louis has its laureate of fiction, Rick Skwiot. His new novel, Fail, is a sheer success. Skwiot hits for the fences and stylishly touches all the bases — money, municipal politics, police corruption, infidelity, suicide, homicide, all rendered in crackling prose.”

–Michael Mewshaw, author of Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal

“Fail is a riveting spellbinding tale with intricate characters that are depicted through carefully crafted imagery of iconic St. Louis landmarks bolstered by lucid vernacular accuracy reflecting the rich cultural diversity of the city.”

–John Baugh, author of Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice and former director African and African American Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

“In Fail Rick Skwiot has written a story that will endure…[T]he flawlessly pitched voices, the intricate plot—tying academia and Mark Twain to the gritty streets of St. Louis—and the vividly realized characters are all as good as it gets in detective stories. Skwiot has squeezed himself into a spot between [Dashiell] Hammett and [John D.] MacDonald, and I suspect they would be happy to have him there.”

–Michael Pearson, author of Reading Life—On Books, Memory, and Travel (2015)

“Skwiot’s finest. Set on the mean streets and back alleys of St. Louis, Fail is a big, two-hearted yarn of political corruption and moral decay. The unforgettable police detective, Carlo Gabriel, who handles the investigation, must first grapple with his own transgressions before he can unravel the wooly skein of betrayal and depravity surrounding him. A tale that could well have been ripped from the front page of any city in the country.”

–John Leslie, author of Border Crossing

“The twisting plot and fascinating characters will keep readers turning the pages, but the underlying problem exposed by this vital novel is dead serious. In snappy, vivid, hard-boiled language, Skwiot lays bare the root cause of most of our societal woes: our failed education system. It is no mere coincidence the story takes place in St. Louis, the heartland city that has come to represent our greater national tragedy. Fail is a wake-up call.”

–Kelly Daniels, author of Cloudbreak, California

“Art imitates life in this prescient novel. Both crime fiction and a clarion call to rescue America’s underserved schools, Fail is also proof positive that the Ferguson, Missouri, uprising was inevitable.”

–Terry Baker Mulligan, author of Afterlife in Harlem

“Not all the snow that blankets St. Louis city in Fail can begin to whitewash its political corruption and educational malpractice, but through all the darkness hope for change emerges. A cynical detective ventures far outside his comfort zone, risking everything to keep an idealistic teacher alive long enough to expose ugly truths. A microcosm for what ails society, Fail is an intelligent read that refuses to pass the buck, earning a classy A.”

–Scott L. Miller, author of Counterfeit and Interrogation

“The rapid pace, seamless unfolding and well-crafted plot of this mystery … [are] balanced with the incisive depiction of two contrasting main characters—a crusading English teacher and [a] worldly-wise, battered cop. This tale is a trenchant reminder that the urban cocktail of poverty in the face of wealth, St. Louis’s famous segregated sprawl … and corruption in high places nationwide, is an explosive mix.”

–Peter H. Green, author of Crimes of Design



In a way, Alonzo Watkins got shot thanks to Christmas. The university library, where he had been cocooning most evenings for the past four months, closed early that Friday for Christmas break. So he took the 9:35 bus home instead of the 11:35. Bad timing.

The number 4 Natural Bridge in which he was riding slid to a stop. Alonzo looked up from the chess game on his iPad and saw the driver staring at him in the rearview mirror.

“You said ‘Salisbury Street,’ right?”

He glanced out into the dark, recognized where they were, and rose, shoving the computer into his backpack as he moved toward the front door. It opened with a hiss.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“You take care, son. And merry Christmas.”

He stepped down into fresh snow, which came to the top of his beige chukkas. The bus, its yellow-lit interior now empty of passengers, lumbered ahead, turning south on Parnell Street to head downtown. Alonzo slipped the backpack over his shoulder, pulled his stocking cap down on his head, and marched east on Salisbury.

He had the northwest wind at this back, but snow swirled between the redbrick tenements, down the redbrick alleys, and across brick-strewn vacant lots, biting his face. His legs, protected from the Arctic chill by only his jeans, stung from the cold. Four blocks until he reached home on Hyde Park. He hoped his sister’s kids would be asleep but feared they’d still be watching TV.

The coming snow flew past yellow streetlights. A few homes were lit. In one first-story window a Christmas tree with multi-colored lights sat behind iron bars. Others, with windows boarded, loomed cold, dark, lifeless, and ghostly.
On the next corner he saw the broad windows of the confectionary—usually dimmed by the time he passed—still aglow behind their crisscrossed steel grill. Alonzo dug his bare hands deep into the pockets of his wool jacket and kept trudging ahead.

When he noticed three hooded figures emerge from the store he crossed to the sidewalk on the far side of the street, keeping his eyes on the white ground in front of him. Like always, Alonzo tried to disappear, strove to become invisible. But on the periphery he saw the trio cross the deserted street and fall in behind him. He quickened his pace.

“The fuck you think you’re going, college boy?”

Alonzo kept walking, heart speeding.

“A yo. I’m talking to you, pussy!”

“What’s in the bag, homeboy?” came a second voice.

He felt a tug on his backpack and whirled.

Despite their hoodies and the snow blowing in his eyes he recognized the middle one, Marlon. They’d been freshmen together at Beaumont High four years earlier. But then Marlon had stop coming.

“I got nothing for you.” Alonzo’s voice cracked as he said it.

“See about that,” said the fat one on the left, grabbing the backpack.

Alonzo yanked on it, ears burning hot, adrenaline fueling him. Fatso jerked it toward him; Alonzo pulled against him. The zipper split open, notebooks, grammar book, chess clock, and iPad tumbling out into the snow.

Marlon stooped to snatch the computer. Alonzo dove forward to wrench it from his grasp. Someone booted him in the head.
Sprawled on the snowy sidewalk, he took another kick, this one in the ribs. Had he the time and the wherewithal to think about it dispassionately, Alonzo likely would have taken his beating, relinquished his iPad, and slunk off. Instead, however, the instincts of a cornered animal rose within him.

Somehow he got to his knees and began flailing with his fists. A wild right caught Marlon, who dropped the iPad and brought his hands to his nose, from which blood began to spurt. He straightened, jammed his right hand into his pocket, and withdrew a small caliber automatic.

Panting, Alonzo froze and fixed on the gun’s barrel gleaming golden in the streetlight, vibrating. Marlon, wide-eyed, speechless, stood over him, shaking.

“Do the motherfucker, Marlon! Nigga busted your damn nose! Do him!”

Alonzo scrambled to his feet, turned and ran across the street toward Hyde Park, his breath coming in short bursts, chest heaving. Then he felt a bee sting in his back and heard the dull explosion of the gun, muffled by the snow.

He wheezed, trying to catch his breath. His legs buckled beneath him, dropping him once again to his knees. The sting in his back grew hot and spread, radiating throughout his chest. He fell forward, the snow cooling his face. Now the cold felt good, and he sensed himself slipping off somewhere strange and soothing…


Carlo Gabriel sat with his topcoat in his lap studying the mayor’s portrait on the wall across the room. Despite the high ceilings and the cold outside, the inside air hung warm. Memories hung in the air as well, which he kept brushing back.

Without apparent cue the bow-tied man behind the desk said: “Ms. Cantrell will see you now.”

Gabriel lifted himself and sauntered toward the tall door ahead, which now swung open. A statuesque brunette in a business suit appeared and shook his hand.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, detective. Call from channel five on the snow removal—or lack thereof.”

He thought to correct her on the detective title—“That’s Lieutenant Gabriel, ma’am”—but then thought better of it. Now that he was reduced to doing detective work that’s what he seemed to most people.

He stepped onto a Persian carpet. She closed the door behind him and walked ahead to an oversized walnut desk and high-backed leather chair. He couldn’t help noticing, through tall windows, the cityscape behind her—the Civil Courts Building, the Old Courthouse, the Gateway Arch. Impressive. Her hair was held in place by a bone barrette in back; her suit—black pinstriped—featured a tight skirt that did quite not reach the backs of her knees. Gabriel pursed his lips. Of course he had seen her on television when she worked as an anchorwoman. But he had never seen her legs.

She indicated a wooden armchair across from her. He sat and laid his topcoat on the chair next to him. When he faced her she took in and let out a breath.

“My husband disappeared three days ago.”

He leaned forward. “Three days… Saturday then.”

She nodded. He reached for his coat, black cashmere, and removed a notepad from its pocket. “When did you last see Mr. Cantrell?”

“Stone. Jonathan Stone… He left our apartment Saturday morning. I was still in bed.”

Despite the feeble winter sun her skin looked tanned. High cheekbones. Her perfume floated to him. “Where do you live?”

“The ABCs on Kingshighway. We own a condo there.”

He knew the building—a very correct address for urban white folks.

“Why did you wait three days before filing a report?”

She lifted a finger to her lips, full and pouting. “Is that what we’re doing, filing a report?”

“Just a manner of speaking, Ms. Cantrell. I understand that the mayor wants it handled right.”

“I want it handled right. No need making anything official until we have to. I pray we won’t have to. He could show up anytime.”

She meant alive, surely.

“So he’s been gone overnight previously? Without your knowing about it beforehand, I mean.”

“No, never.”

“Was he depressed?”

She blinked. “Jonathan wouldn’t kill himself, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Any drug or alcohol issues? Sorry, I have to ask these questions. No disrespect intended.”


“You’ve been married how long?”

“Twelve years. We met at Mizzou.”


She shook her head.

“He hasn’t shown up at work?”

She shook it again. “They’re on semester break. He’s a college professor.”

“In what field?”


“I presume money’s not an issue—gambling losses?”

She sniffed. “Jonathan wouldn’t be caught dead in a casino.”

“Any personal problems?”

A hesitation then: “You mean does he have a mistress?”

Gabriel shrugged a shoulder. It happens. Even when your wife is fine, and Ellen Cantrell was fine. “Whatever problems.”

“Jonathan’s a very private person. Keeps things inside.”

“Health issues?”

“Even being around students he never gets sick.”

“How old is he?”


Gabriel nodded remembering what it was like at thirty-four. A pivotal age for many men, fueled by a mix of ambition, testosterone, and hope. But for him that was two decades past and he wondered how much he had left.

“What about family members: parents, siblings…?”

“I emailed his mother—they live in Florida now. I was indirect but she obviously knows nothing. He was an only child.”

“The last time you saw him was Saturday morning…?”

“I didn’t actually see him. As I said I was still in bed.”

“You share the same bed?”

Cantrell lowered her chin and studied Gabriel’s silk scarf, purple, draped down the lapels of his black blazer. It was the sort of question asked of a connected white woman that, in earlier times, could have earned a black cop trouble.

She lifted her eyes to meet his. He stared back, waiting for an answer, but all he got was:

“I heard the front door closing.”

“What time was this?”

“Around ten.”

Gabriel made a note. “Were you up late Friday night?”

“At the mayor’s Christmas party. In the ballroom at the Mayfair. It was one o’clock when we left.” Gabriel sat still, waiting for more. Eventually she went on: “I was working, not partying. There were media people and others we have special relationships with. I try to make sure there’s no miscommunication.”

He raised an eyebrow. His Honor, he knew from their days together, liked his gin. Which at times made him shoot from the hip, figuratively speaking.

“And what was your husband doing during this time?”

“Mingling, I guess. People watching.”

“Did he get drunk?”

“Not so I noticed.”

“Did he drive home?”

“We took a cab. Jonathan had come downtown on the train.”

“What did you talk about in the cab?”

“I was talked out. Jonathan was his usual quiet self. When we got to Forest Park it had started snowing. He commented on how pretty it was.”

“Do you own a car?”

“Yes, a Jeep. I also have a city vehicle. Jonathan rides the MetroLink to campus.”

“And the Jeep is gone?”

“It wasn’t in the garage when I went down Saturday afternoon.”

“When did you first begin to worry?”

“Saturday evening. Not worry so much as wonder. I called his cell phone from a party fundraiser and got no answer. When I got home around midnight I tried again and heard it ring in the den.”

“Does he usually carry it?”

“Not always. He’s a reader not a talker.”

“Did he leave a note or mention a trip?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Any friends or colleagues we might check with?”

“Jonathan’s always been a loner. There may be colleagues at work but none that I know.”

“Any withdrawals?”


Gabriel scribbled on his notepad: “Wife checked bank accounts—why?” As he did he saw her looking at her watch.

“One last question, Ms. Cantrell: Why did you wait three days to involve the police?”

She stood and glared down at him, jaw moving laterally as if grinding teeth. He often got interesting reactions when he asked the same question twice.

“I didn’t. Others have been on this since Sunday morning. Checking the accidents, incidents, hospitals.”

Who, he wondered? He visualized the chain of command: The mayor, Chief of Police Donnewald, Bureau Commander Coleman, Deputy Commander Masters, Fourth District Captain Stolle… But the usual chain of command didn’t apply here; otherwise he wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Gabriel flipped closed his notepad, pushed himself up from the armchair with a sigh, and handed her his card.

“I’d appreciate it if you could email me a recent photo of your husband. I’ll keep you posted on any developments.”

She studied the card and slipped it into her pocket. “You understand, lieutenant, that everything comes through me first,” she said, walking around the desk. “Clear?”

Her long legs were nothing like those of his ex-wife, Janet, but her mouth was.

“Yes, ma’am, I understand. The mayor underscored that.”

Outside her office he let out a breath. He moved back down City Hall’s grand staircase to the ground floor and crossed the lobby, heels clicking on the white marble.

“Brother Gabriel!”

He stopped and turned. An old black man in a baggy gray suit, carrying a Bible, approached. They slapped hands.

“Preacher Cairns! Thought you’d be in heaven by now. How’s biz?”

“Slow, slow. No one thinks to get married when it snows. Funny… You back downtown, Gabe?”

“Not yet. Still in exile. Just checking my traps.”

The old man laughed then sobered. “It ain’t the same these days.”

“Nope,” Gabriel said. “Not even close.”



Author Bio:

Former journalist Rick Skwiot is the author of three previous novels—the Hemingway First Novel Award winner Death in Mexico, the Willa Cather Fiction Prize finalist Sleeping With Pancho Villa, and Key West Story—as well as two memoirs: the critically-acclaimed Christmas at Long Lake: A Childhood Memory and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Memoir of a Sensual Quest for Spiritual Healing. He also works as a feature writer, book doctor and editor. From St. Louis, he currently resides in Key West.

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15. 11/17 Showcase @ Ryder Islington’s Blog


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SHOWCASE: M.C.V. Egan Creator of The Bridge of Deaths

THE BRIDGE OF DEATHS: 75th Anniversary Event


Author M.C.V. Egan has spent the better part of the last two decades researching the real-life events depicted in her book The Bridge of Deaths.

Her book, when it was published in 2011, gathered critical accolades and reviews. Now, as the 75th anniversary of the events and World War II are coming, she has revised the book and given it a new cover–and will preside over a month-long history-laden event that will entertain, educate, and enlighten you! As part of this event, the revised version of The Bridge of Deaths will be re-released.


About The Bridge of Deaths

"M.C.V. Egan twists truth and fiction until you question your is a story of real love, triumph and search for self." - Beckah Boyd @ The Truthful Tarot

On August 15th, 1939, an English passenger plane from British Airways Ltd. crashed in Danish waters between the towns of Nykøbing Falster and Vordingborg. There were five casualties reported and one survivor. Just two weeks before, Hitler invaded Poland.

With the world at the brink of war, the manner in which this incident was investigated left much open to doubt. The jurisdiction battle between the two towns and the newly formed Danish secret police created an atmosphere of intrigue and distrust.

The Bridge of Deaths is a love story and a mystery. Fictional characters travel through the world of past life regressions and information acquired from psychics as well as archives and historical sources to solve “one of those mysteries that never get solved.” Based on true events and real people, The Bridge of Deaths is the culmination of 18 years of sifting through conventional and unconventional sources in Denmark, England, Mexico and the United States. The story finds a way to help the reader feel that s/he is also sifting through data and forming their own conclusions.

Cross The Bridge of Deaths into 1939, and dive into cold Danish waters to uncover the secrets of the G-AESY.

Genre classification: Historical mystery

Event hosts

The Bridge of Deaths cover reveal: August 15, 2014
75th Anniversary Event Stops (September 1-30)


About the author

MCVEganM.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan. Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, the sixth of eight children, in a traditional Catholic family.

From a very young age, she became obsessed with the story of her maternal grandfather, Cesar Agustin Castillo–mostly the story of how he died.

She spent her childhood in Mexico. When her father became an employee of The World Bank in Washington D.C. in the early 1970s, she moved with her entire family to the United States. Catalina was already fluent in English, as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There she won the English award, despite being the only one who had English as a second language in her class.

In the D.C. suburbs she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland in 1977. She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France, at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (the Swedish kind, not the football player kind), Catalina moved to Sweden where she resided for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish, and Finnish businesspeople. She then returned to the USA, where she has lived ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.

Maria Catalina Vergara Egan is married and has one son who, together with their five-pound Chihuahua, makes her feel like a full-time mother. Although she would not call herself an astrologer she has taken many classes and taught a few beginner classes in the subject.

She celebrated her 52nd birthday on July 2nd, 2011, and gave herself self-publishingThe Bridge of Deaths as a gift.

Find M.C.V. Egan and The Bridge of Deaths at