Monday, October 19, 2015

SPIDER'S DANCE - The "Lost" Chapter

There are two things - and only two things - I will say about this:
1) The events as described are 99.9% accurate.
2) I will not discuss it. Ever.

This is the rather infamous "Lost" Chapter from SPIDER'S DANCE. It was cut for a variety of reasons (mainly because two agents said it was 'repulsive', one editor deemed it 'too ugly to deal with'), and another editor said it 'killed the story' for her. I ran across it and thought fans of Nicholas might enjoy this look into another side of him.

For context, the scene originally occurs in the chapter Ballet D'Action, when Nicholas invites Michaela O'Brien to his home for dinner, and gives her a tour of the second floor.....

She took in everything from the books to the childhood mementos.  Yet another bookcase sat under the light switch.  Sitting on top was a paperweight, a plastic toy of the Loch Ness Monster, other stuff collected here and there.  Her focus sharpened as she saw something.  “And this is?”
She reached out and picked up a bracelet made from multicolored beads strung on a piece of elastic.  In the middle of it, three white beads with the letters “SBD” glared out. 
“Just a reminder,” I said.
“Of what?”
“One that didn’t work out.”
She carefully set the bracelet back where it had been.  “Want to talk about it?”
There was a thumping sound on the stairs, something akin to a wheelbarrow being dragged over cobblestones.  Weeble came up over the top of the landing, glanced through the doorway at us, shnorted through her nose, then yawned and flopped down where she could watch the street through the large picture window in the front of the house on the second story. 
I hesitated for a moment, then realized she probably knew the whole story anyway.  “Suzanne Belinda Donovan,” I told her.

She nodded as if confirming something she already knew.  “And you were part of that?”
“I was on the fringes,” I said diplomatically.  “It was a few years ago.” 

Suzanne Donovan lived in Amarillo, Texas, with her parents. Slightly above average student, loved playing the violin, straight A student (A- in Higher Mathematics). Just an average kid living an average life.

One night, Suzanne came home from her job at a hamburger stand, talked with her mother about an upcoming recital the next day, and went to bed.

The next morning, she’d vanished off the face of the earth.

The case was a big thing in the state of Texas but, sadly, Suzanne wasn’t pretty enough to garner national attention. I ruefully reflected that smarter people than myself - John Douglas for one - have classed this as “Pretty Blonde Syndrome.” A pretty blonde girl goes missing, it’s national - sometimes international - news. An average kid with light brown hair, freckles, and an overbite goes missing, and it’s a local matter.

Maybe. If the family is lucky.

I came into it two weeks later when the private investigator the family hired called and asked me to do a forensic analysis of both the family computer and Suzanne’s laptop. I did it but, unfortunately, the family had hired two other investigators, and one of them had serious delusions of grandeur.

Over time, it all came out; evidence withheld, half-truths told, misinformation given. The potential for trouble became screamingly obvious when the second investigator actually said to me over the phone, “I wonder who’s gonna play me in the Lifetime movie?”

When I finally received the computer images on DVD, one of the discs had cracked in shipping, rendering it useless. The bad feeling intensified when the third investigator refused to go to the expense of overnighting a duplicate, saying, “She’s been missing for a couple of weeks, another couple of days won’t matter.”

Another two-day delay while it was replaced.

At that point, I did some digging of my own and began dealing directly with the police lieutenant in charge of the case. A retired Texas Ranger with the unlikely name of Joaquin Goldman, his drawl was pure West Texas. Bypassing the ‘chain of command’ made me quite unpopular among those involved; I couldn’t have cared less. There was a seventeen-year-old girl missing, and that’s all that mattered.

Suzanne’s cell phone and wallet were on her desk. No activity on her bank account or ATM card. Thinking no seventeen-year-old girl would leave without her cell phone, intense attention was focused on her computer.

Analysis of the two machines came up with a long laundry list of Instant Messaging ID’s, but no recorded chats. Deleted emails with missing info that proved unrecoverable, but some of the addresses were. I recovered all I could, and turned it over to the police.

Then waited for results.


It was a mystery.

I would come home with a bag of take-out or call for a delivery. Closing myself up in the lab, I picked things apart, going over and over and over the same evidence, day in and day out, day out and day in.

My cleaning lady would come in, shake her head at the overflowing ashtrays, discarded bottles that once held caffeine drinks, overflowing coffee filters in the trash can, and empty food containers.

Sleep was a forgotten acquaintance.

Goldman and I would talk several times a week, kicking around ideas, theories, and possibilities. At first, he was guarded, but I took the liberty of providing some references, and once Goldman had made some inquiries, he became very open with what little information he had to share.

Friends stopped calling. My social life dwindled down to nothing. I’d catnap on the floor sometimes, unwilling to quit.

Again and again and again, every spare moment, I picked through the hard drive images, looking for the one little sliver of information I just wasn’t smart enough to see.

Running and re-running and running again analysis tools, searching, seeking, hoping, praying.

There was nothing left.

The mystery stayed unsolved.

Almost two years to the day, a man was arrested in Abilene. Hector Villanueva was a salesman, a roamer, a man who traveled from town to town, picking up what work he could, when he could. He lived in a camper shell on back of his pickup truck, and he had a laptop computer.

Which provided the mother lode.

Arrested on suspicion of murder of a prostitute in Dallas, Villanueva happily filled in the missing gaps after he realized he was well and truly caught. After seeing some video footage of one interview, I believed he gloried in the attention, basked in the limelight.

He’d met Suzanne in an online chat-room. Like a lot of young girls in small towns with big dreams, she fell in love with the mysterious stranger. The night she went missing, Villanueva had persuaded her to sneak out of her home and meet him. She did, crawling through her bedroom window at eleven thirty that night.

Two and a half hours later - two A.M. the next morning - she was dead.

Villanueva dumped her brutalized and strangled body in a nearby landfill, covering it with garbage. 

He then left Amarillo, heading for a promised job in Waco. He stayed there for a year, when another girl went missing.

He drove out of Amarillo without a backward glance. A witness had seen him talking to the missing girl earlier that night, before she vanished. Thanks to a freak coincidence, the witness was a mathematics professor with total recall.

The police then had a license plate to track.

A DPS trooper caught the alert just as Villanueva drove past him. Out of the academy for all of three weeks, the young trooper hit lights and siren and had Hector Villanueva in custody before the traveling killer knew what happened.

Like many killers, Villanueva kept trophies of his victims, in his case detailed logs of their online chats. The lieutenant remembered me from the start of the case, and sent me a copy of Villanueva’s hard drive.

What was found there was more than enough to connect him to Suzanne. And the other two missing girls.

As part of a plea-bargain deal, Villanueva led local police in Amarillo to the area where he’d dumped Suzanne’s body. In the interim, the landfill had indeed filled, and there was a great deal of publicity surrounding the decision to dig through it. First, the city said no, then said maybe, then said no again. 

The city fathers were wondering whether or not it would be worth three-to-four million dollars to dig through the huge mound on behalf of a single dead girl.

Somehow, the dilemma leaked to the local news stations, who converged on City Hall en masse. 

Public opinion forced the issue and within three days of starting, Suzanne’s body had been recovered.

Through some freak accident of nature, her body had mummified instead of decayed. Gruesome as that sounds, there was more than enough DNA evidence to convict Villanueva. During one of the many phone calls between myself and Goldman, I made the grievous mistake of asking to see the autopsy report. Goldman hemmed and hawed, stalled and stammered, but he faxed it to me, and I sat down one evening to read it.

That won’t happen again.

That will never happen again.

I went to the funeral in Amarillo.

Suzanne’s parents and I had spoken at length over the phone many times in the beginning, but as time and hope faded, the calls became less frequent. This was the first time we’d met face to face.

There were tears, a lot of them.

Meeting Lt. Goldman face to face finally, he and I had a chance to talk for a few moments. He was right out of an old John Wayne movie, taller than myself, raising laconic to an art form, wearing his good hat and string tie for the funeral. He thanked me for my efforts. I told him I’d done nothing; he was the one who pulled it all together. “‘Congratulations’ probably isn’t the right word,” I said to him when we stepped outside to smoke. “But that was a hell of a piece of work.”

He took a long drag on his cigarette. “What bothers me, Yankee, is there’s another Suzanne out there, right now.”


“And there ain’t a goddamned thing to do about it.”

There wasn’t much more to say. We went back inside after that. We stood off to the side, while the family huddled together in their mixture of relief of knowing and grief for their loss. I’d met Suzanne’s father briefly at the cemetery, and he nodded in my direction.

Suzanne’s mother came over to us. A small woman, Texas born and bred. She tried to hug us both at the same time. We stood there and took it.

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you both for helping to bring her home.”

She wept for a time. There was nothing I could do but wait for it to pass.

“You wait right here,” she said when she got herself under control. She went into the back of the house, and then reappeared almost instantly.

“I want you to have this,” she said to me. She handed me a bracelet, a small thing, the kind of thing a seventeen-year-old girl who lived in a small town in Texas would wear. The letters “SBD” winked at me. She turned to Lt. Goldman, and handed him a pair of costume earrings, probably on sale at a discount store.

“You both did so much,” she said. “You both tried so hard.”

I glanced at Goldman, and then looked away quickly. Tough Homicide Detectives don’t like to get caught with tears in their eyes. My own eyes were watering, probably from cigarette smoke. The fact neither Goldman nor myself had one lit inside the house was immaterial.

She hugged each of us again, and then turned back to her family.

I turned to Goldman, and we shook hands. “I need to go,” I said, clearing my throat so I could speak. “Long drive.”


We didn’t look at each other. As I headed for the door, he said, “Hey, Yankee.”

I turned around to face him.

He stared at me for a long while. Then he cracked the barest hint of a grin, and said, “Y’all drive careful, boy.”

I got in my car and left there. I’m pretty sure I broke some speed limits getting to the freeway and turning south, but my eyes were still cloudy. By the time I got home, the interior of my car smelled like a pool hall from all the cigarettes I smoked on the drive back, but my hands had stopped trembling and my eyes had stopped watering.

Next day, I took it in for a thorough detailing, with extra special attention on the interior.

Three weeks later, I received a package in the mail with the return address of the Amarillo Police Department. I opened it, and found two items: a tall thermal coffee cup covered in hand-worked leather, simple but elegant.

The words MONSTER HUNTER were stamped into the leather.

The other item was enclosed in a soft felt bag. A rusted, pitted, aged Texas Ranger badge. There was no way to tell how old it was, or what era it came from, but I knew what it represented. And I also knew what it meant to receive it as a gift.

There was no card in the package.

I still have that cup. I use it. I’d brought it home to run it through the dishwasher the Friday before the office explosion and collapse, then forgot and left it on the counter that morning. Some people notice the words hand-tooled into it, most don't. If anyone asks, I smile, shrug, and change the subject.

And I keep Suzanne’s bracelet on a bookshelf in my computer lab. 

“But you kept it.”

"A reminder,” I said.  “Reality.  Win some, lose some.”

“And you don’t like to lose, do you?”

“Who does?”

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Just for fun, this is the initial opening of LINGER 4: HERE THERE BE MONSTERS. For reasons of pacing, style, and continuity, it was deleted from the final manuscript, but I thought some readers might like to see it.

Everyone on this tiny spinning ball of the cosmos, this insignificant spinning rock humanity has claimed for its own, has a dark side. A temper, a thirst for revenge, a desire to get even for being treated badly - whether real or imagined - is within us all.

Society teaches us not to act on these thoughts. To do so would be ‘uncivilized’ and we are better than that, morally superior to such actions. To lash out at someone who has hurt you, someone who has wronged you, someone who has stolen from you, someone who has broken your heart, is unacceptable.

To most.

On the darker side of our world, there is a plane where individuals either do not have these internal controls or choose to ignore them. Whether it is a question of ‘Nature or Nurture’ has long been the subject of debate and study. As of this current date, there are no solid answers.

Hollywood has glamorized these monsters, making movies and television series about them and those who hunt them strictly for the entertainment value. Some consider them as idols, totems, creatures to emulate. Web sites post photographs of their handiwork as if they were objets d’art, to be seen and admired.

Some of the dark creatures never surface. They bury themselves in alcohol or drugs or sexuality or all three and never allow their darker side out for the world to see.

There are Others… Others do not care. They will act on savage impulse or they will act methodically, planning, scheming, stalking, observing, then striking. They will take what they wish when they wish and how they wish with no thought to the remotest possibility of consequences. Sometimes their actions are more vicious and savage than can be imagined by the average person.

One such animal that prowls among us is known as The Beast.

He calls himself that. Others call him that. He has roamed for years, perhaps decades, committing acts of the most horrendous and foul nature that veteran police officers have cried like children over his victims. Other officers have left their planned career in law enforcement after seeing his handiwork.

One Federal Agent, a distinguished and case-hardened agent, a man who was one of the initial founders of what is now known as the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the F.B.I., spent days cataloging and recording and analyzing the crime scenes after The Beast left the small town he had prowled and done his perverted work. 

After three days, his supervisor commended him for his excellent effort and issued a direct order that he return home to get some rest.

After spending all those hours looking and studying what The Beast left behind, he went home, kissed his wife and their four year old granddaughter who was visiting, went into his home office, and used his service weapon to take his own life.

Most of the time, these creatures, these non-humans, roam and work alone. Their personalities make them solitary by nature, they do not seek or desire the company of others. They enjoy their solitude and prefer the freedom it gives them to act upon their sadistic impulses.

But… sometimes, They do form together. They work together to indulge in their savage delights, to take Their perverse pleasures in destruction. They take joy in the most vile acts, enjoying the pain and torture and screams of Their victims as a connoisseur would enjoy a vintage wine or a gourmet a splendid meal.

They are all around us. They cannot be picked out of a crowd, they cannot be easily identified. There is no warning, no immediate indication. They do not have matching tattoos, they do not have identifying birthmarks, they do not have a particular signal they give off, at least not initially.

They walk among the rest of humanity.

And sometimes, Their path crosses ours…..

Monday, March 9, 2015

SPIDER'S DANCE - Complete and Uncut!

SPIDER'S DANCE has been EXTENDED! Now, the story is presented in the way it was originally intended! (If you have read PRODROMOS/SPIDER'S OVERTURE, that's the bulk of the material I'm referring to.)

Back in the day, when I was pursuing a traditional publishing career, an agent and two editors all came back with "Cut the backstory! No Backstory! Cut the Backstory!"

Cutting all that out gave rise to a lot of questions from readers: "How does a computer guy know how to protect a crime scene?" "Why would a computer security specialist know about murder?" "How does a security specialist know so much about law enforcement?" "Why would he have a gun?" etc. etc. etc

The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize "backstory" is part of Life. We all have one, sometimes more than one. "Backstory" is what makes us who we are - for better or for worse - and Nicholas White's backstory is integral to his character and to him as a man.

So, I added it back in. Cut quite a bit, added some more. If you've read PRODROMOS/SPIDER'S OVERTURE, you'll find a lot of that in here - as it was in the original version of DANCE.

Stephen King did the same thing in THE STAND, and I'll blatantly paraphrase him: "If you're looking for a DIFFERENT story, you'll be disappointed; the fundamentals have not changed. If you're looking for a BETTER story - at least from the author's point of view - you'll enjoy this much more, I hope!"

Thomas Harris is famous for stopping the action dead in the water for a flashback. Robert Crais does it, and beautifully. Andrew Vachss is a master at it.

While there is no way I am comparing myself to those masters of the genre, now, it's my turn!

And here's the important part: by using the link above or below, a portion of every sale is donated to PROTECT. Every single purchase, a percentage is donated to what is - in my opinion - the single most worthy organization on the planet.

I do hope you enjoy this complete edition of SPIDER'S DANCE. I know I did while I was writing it!

Monday, December 15, 2014


One of the greatest things about being a writer is there are times a wonderful surprise comes your way….

Back in August of 2014 - more or less - I received an email from “Ashton Broukes” who read one of my novels and contacted me through my website.  It was obvious the writer had actually read the book from comments made here and there, and genuinely enjoyed it.

We began a random correspondence. Gradually, the correspondence turned into a series of questions and answers about The Publishing Business, the Writing Business, the Writing Process, etc. etc.etc. Personally, I was flattered to have anyone think I had any sort of genuine knowledge or answers to it all, and I replied as honestly as I could. The correspondence continued over the fall of 2014 here and there, no pattern or predictability to it.

Then came the email I had a hunch was coming: would I please read the first three chapters of TWISTED SECONDS OF FATE?

Being a firm believer in “We’re all in this together,” I agreed. The chapters came through email the next morning, but I could not get to them until that weekend.

To put it politely, I was almost knocked out of my chair. The writing was clean and crisp, no nonsense, not a wasted word. I was instantly swept into the story, the opening line alone “DNA doesn’t lie” grabbing me and not letting go. I wrote back as soon as I could and asked if the book was finished and - like Oliver - “could I please have some more?”

Silence. No reply. No response. Nothing for a couple of weeks. I started to think possibly I had said something wrong or done something to offend.

Early one Friday morning (VERY early, like 430am early; insomnia does have some benefits) I checked email, and there was a message from Ashton that read, “You asked for this… remember that…” and a Smiley Face. Attached was the entire manuscript.

I promptly downloaded it to my Kindle, and opened it up.

Fortunately, the manuscript came in on a Friday, so I could spend the entire weekend reading it.

Brock Russell and Kate Monroe are two of the most engaging characters I have run across in a long time. Their stories begin separately yet intertwine in a very believable way, but there is a sense of foreboding in every scene. From that point forward, it’s a headlong rush into some very thoughtful and well-written ruminations on ‘family’ and what makes a family or does not make one, action scenes that rival anything by Ian Fleming or Alistair MacLean, and a shattering climax that I dare anyone - anyone - to read without their hands shaking with excitement, fear, or both.

This is an amazing novel. As I sat here writing this blog about it, I realized something critical that led to my unabashed enjoyment: I do not know who Ashton Broukes is.

That gave me a tremendous advantage as a reader, a nearly priceless gift.

Face it, if you buy the new James Patterson, you know his hero is going to be pushed to extremes no human being should ever have to face. If you buy the new Janet Evanovich, you know it’s going to be funny and clever and some groan out loud jokes. If you buy the new Michael Connelly, you know you’ll go down some dark paths and learn the tremendous difference there is between Justice and the Law. If you buy the new Christie Craig, you know you’ll laugh out loud but everything will work out happily ever after by the end of the book. If it’s the new Lee Child, you know Jack Reacher is going to whoop someone’s butt. If you read the new Elaine Viets, you'll learn some things about jobs you never thought about and have a heck of a good time doing so.

A friend once summed up my own writing as, “It’s simple: you always have a Good Guy, a Bad Guy, a Girl, and a Gun.” (Yes, I’ll admit it… and accept it as the compliment it was intended to be.)

I do not know if Ashton is male or female, single or married, childless or has ten children. Dogs? Cats? Fish? No idea. We never engaged in any sort of personal details.

I have no idea where s/he may live, or what real life is like. Ashton could be a twenty-two year old housewife in Brooklyn or a sixty-nine year old retired CIA agent living under an assumed name. I don’t know if Ashton likes ice cream and Las Vegas and listens to Sinatra or prefers yogurt, Melbourne, and Thrash Metal music.

No idea.

Nada, Zip, Zilch. Goose Egg.

In short, I know nothing.

No preconceived notions. No expectations. None of “Okay, I know I’ll like this.”

This one, coming in through the Internet - the Millennial version of ‘over the transom' - from someone I have no idea about - delivered a refreshing and intense reading experience that I have not personally had since I was around 21 and read SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King for the first time.

And that, ultimately, is all I can really say about it.


Buy it. Read it. Savor it. Enjoy it.

But don’t blame me if you sleep with the lights on for a while afterwards…

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


"Not since Roger Moore 'Sainted' his way across Europe has there been a hero as engaging as Nicholas White. This time, Nicholas is teamed up with a New Orleans detective - Merriault 'Missy' Duchane to investigate a horrible crime in The Big Easy. What they discover is horrendous, but it takes wit and cleverness to escape the villain's lair. Instead of rocket launchers or explosives, Nicholas uses his brain to devise a solution - as opposed to so many heroes who explode buildings - and save the day. Highly recommended, SPIDER'S KISS is not to be missed!" - J. Carson Black, author of HARD RETURN, the Laura Cardinal Series, and the forthcoming BLACK SPECTER

A portion of *every* sale will go to PROTECT

"SPIDER'S KISS" by Will Graham.

A horrendous crime has been committed in New Orleans, dredging up memories for DOJ Consultant Nicholas White better off left buried.... but when the evidence points to the New Orleans FBI office, Nicholas finds himself compelled to come out of semi-retirement to act.

Not knowing who to trust, Nicholas is teamed up with Lt. Merrieult Duchane - a woman with her own 'unusual' reputation in law enforcement - of the NOLA PD to quietly look into the matter.

Together they discover a crime of horrors unimaginable - a descent into a corner of Hell - that will take all their combined knowledge, wits, and teamwork if they hope to ever see another sunrise....

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Way behind on blog posts, but... now available .99 cents!
SPIDER'S TANGO is now available on Kindle! Originally published in THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER back in 2012, this is the Author's Preferred Text that now includes approximately 1,000 words that had to be edited for the anthology!

"It had my heart skipping beats even though I'd read it before... Nicholas is a hero worth rooting for!" - J. Carson Black, author of HARD RETURN, THE SHOP, the forthcoming SPECTER BLACK, and others

"It's fast, fun and full of suspense. Kudos!" - Patricia Smiley, author of the Tucker Sinclair series.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Blog Hop!

Stephen Campbell tagged me for a quick four question Blog Hop!  

Just what we need in the summertime, right??

What am I working on?

I've got a couple of projects cooking right now; one I cannot talk about (yet!), still working on VEGAS KNIGHTS, and developing a new outline for a modern day thriller

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Wow, that is a tough question! I would hope that my own passion for the plot and characters comes through and sweeps the reader into the story.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I like to read.... it really is that simple! I wish I had a better answer, but that is the base of it.

How does my writing process work?
Kind of a combination of plotting and no-plotting. I try and make at minimum a Ten Point List of things I want to have happen or read about, and then just take off with it. Sometimes the story heads off into a different direction, but that's okay. Part of the fun of it all is seeing how it all works out!

And now.... I'm passing the torch along to the terrific thriller writer J. Carson Black! Her newest FLIGHT 12 is sure to keep you awake all night!