by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of Thomas B. Sawyer’s new mystery novel Cross Purposes, and we also get to interview Tom which was a treat as he has a very interesting background both in writing novels and in TV (he was Showrunner/Head Writer for Murder She Wrote). Details on how to enter to win a copy of Cross Purposes at the end of this post.
Cross Purposes By Thomas Sawyer
Review by Sandra Murphy
Barney Moon is a New York kind of guy. He loves the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s easy to be anonymous when people never make eye contact. Anonymous and forgettable are money to Barney–he’s a private investigator, master of disguise and a darn good hacker to boot.
There are a few things he doesn’t do well of course. He can’t drive a car. Why learn? Everybody in New York walks. For cases off the subway route, he has Al Drobowsky to chauffer him around. There is one other thing. Barney obsesses about more than the case he’s working on. He finds a loose thread to something else off in a guy’s life, can he let it go? No way. He just has to know.
Barney, no George Clooney, does have a way with gorgeous women. His ex-wife, Patricia Owen, one of the gorgeous, is still part of his life. She works at an insurance company and hires Barney when they have a difficult or expensive case.
Doug Rhodes is one of those cases. A building he owned burned and Rhodes stands to inherit millions. Barney is sure it’s a case of arson. Now all he has to do is prove it. He does find the evidence he’s looking for in the form of a fingerprint. The bad news is, there are no prints on file for Rhodes, so no way to be sure the print is his. Rhodes travels to California often, sometimes almost round trip. It looks like Barney will be blasted out of his NY comfort zone and dropped smack in LaLa Land, Los Angeles, just to get one fingerprint.
Well, Al’s along to contend with the stop and go, never ending, rush hour traffic. Al’s a good friend and not one of those partners who get on your nerves during a stakeout. He does have one problem though. His Ma gambles. A lot. And she loses.
When the mob threatens Ma’s kneecaps, she promises Al will cover her debt. Barney figures he can get along for a day without Al. Too bad the mobsters decide Al’s kneecaps will make an equal impression on Ma. Barney’s stranded.
Barney has the good luck to find a young woman trying to steal his car. In exchange for not turning her over to the police, she agrees to act as his driver. Melodie is a delight and in her way, as strangely wonderful a character as Barney. She thinks she might have killed her boyfriend, totally unintentional of course, and doesn’t want to go back to the apartment to find out.
Of course with Barney, things are never easy. There are plots and subplots, threats to life as we know it, a compound with a definite air of cult and Barney just can’t let it go.
Sawyer has written his way through novels, screenplays and plays. He wrote for the long running series, Murder She Wrote. In Barney Moon, he’s created an engaging, original and captivating character. Barney’s sidekicks are his equal. Readers can only hope this is the start of a beautiful relationship–and a long running series of its own.
Use this link to purchase Cross Purposes and a portion goes to help support KRL:
Interview With Thomas Sawyer:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Tom: Since I was about ten or eleven years old. My first goal was to write and draw (realistically) a daily, serialized, syndicated newspaper comic-strip. A form virtually non-existent today, but common during my childhood, examples were Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon, and Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins Onstage.
KRL: Did TV writing come first or books?
Tom: A movie, then TV. Followed by novels.
KRL: Do you have a preference?
Tom:I miss TV, its immediacy, energy and social-atmosphere, but I enjoy novels in that I can get deeper into my characters.
KRL: As a fan I have to ask–what was it like working on Murder She Wrote?
Tom:The Best! Particularly because of the pleasure (honor, really) of writing for and working with Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach (not incidentally really nice people) and so many other fabulous actors. Plus the remarkable luck of a show with a 12-year run? Wow! And topping it all, being Showrunner/Head Writer included incredible control beyond scripts – casting, sets, music, cutting and more. I would have paid them for the privilege. Absolutely the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
KRL: Did you work on other TV shows as well?
Tom: Lots. I was on the writing staff of 15 series, and early-on wrote freelance episodes for a number of others, comedy and drama. Examples: Chico & the Man, Wonder Woman, All in the Family, Quincy. Plus others nobody recalls because they were so short-lived, such as Jessica Novak, Gideon Oliver, California Fever, etc.
KRL: That’s awesome! How many books have you written? Have they all been mysteries?
Tom:Three novels, all of them mystery-thrillers, and two on writing.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Tom:It was originally a notion for a TV series. I continue to prefer old-fashioned PI’s over forensics and actual policemen. Especially because of the gumshoe’s inherent potential for rascally qualities. I’ve long been fascinated by the potential of Barney Moon and the built-in, funny ongoing conflict inherent in his permanent fish-out-of-waterdom. Along with that, being a bicoastal transplant myself, from day-one in LA, I’ve been been struck and endlessly amused by the countless contrasts. I figured sharing these observations through Barney’s one-sided, unforgiving New Yorker filters could make for a fun hero.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Tom:I generally write every day, starting after breakfast. But occasionally, if it’s something that kept me awake (too damned often, actually) I attack that moments after arising, quickly cranking up my computer – and before checking my email (which helps maintains the suspense/drama: Will the Big One arrive today? ?).
KRL: Future writing plans?
Tom:My second Barney Moon novel, A Major Production! is already in work. And my memoir, The Adventures of the REAL Tom Sawyer, is in my agent’s hands as we speak.
KRL: What do you read?
Tom:The New York Times, the New Yorker, a few thrillers, and lately, revisiting old faves by the likes of Hammett, Chandler, Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, plus short stories by them, and masters such as John O’Hara and Irwin Shaw. At the moment I’m rereading and savoring Chandler’s The High Window which, like most of the others, contains lines I would kill to have written.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Tom:Currently, Blue Bloods, Ray Donovan, The Good Wife. Movies – mostly what I regard as Classics – though some of those aren’t all that old. I have about 400 on DVD. Plus, the few new ones that pass my 10-minute test. I never tire of the goodies, like Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Three Days of the Condor.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Tom:Write. And emulate the Good Stuff – not the fifth-rate imitations of the Good Stuff. Hell – steal from it! I mean, does anyone think Shakespeare ever invented a plot? They were all used up long before he started. And maybe most important, remember that you must entertain! From the top! Especially in today’s world of so-short attention-spans! Also – Network! Put yourself in luck’s way. Because the likelihood of being discovered and celebrated for simply being brilliantly talented (as we clearly deserve), is near zero – or less! You’ve got to grab ‘em by the lapels and yell “Hey, dammit, look at me!” Because that’s what all of your competition is doing.
For what I mean by that, and more, they should read my book, Fiction Writing Demystified, and consider taking my online course: Storytelling – How to Write Stories That Will Grab and Hold Your Audience.
KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Tom: It’s called “change.” Anyone who can’t handle they should GOI (get over it!).
KRL: Do you read e-books yourself?
Tom: Sure. Love my Kindle Fire.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Tom: Nope. Great questions, Lorie. You’ve covered it all…
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Tom: Maybe that I started my professional life as a comic-book artist. Drew, and wrote a few, for Stan Lee. Moved on to advertising illustration, then to directing/writing/producing TV commercials and short films.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Book Related questions:
KRL: Does Barney’s phobia about Los Angeles have an underlying cause or is it just the sunshine, traffic and too many smiling, pretty people?
Tom: All of the above and more – most of it just about equally rational. Hey, he’s a New Yorker. Which equals being into pain, noise, crowding, rudeness, etc. The absence of any causes Barney discomfort – and wonder – at such deviation from his norm.
KRL: Al’s mom—will she be back? Will we meet her or just hear Al’s side of the phone calls?
Tom: Probably. She’s almost too good to keep offscreen.
KRL: Barney doesn’t fit the action hero stereotype—how does he get all those attractive women?
Tom: He digs certain women to whom he really shouldn’t be drawn –evoking the sympathy of some. And he’s full of confidence, has a sense of humor, and is very intelligent (though without all that much formal education). Some of that is not unlike a certain writer I know…
KRL: Is Patricia a lost cause for Barney or is there hope?
Tom: Barney doesn’t give up easily, but Patricia’s learned her lesson. Welll-ll – pretty much…
KRL: There are references to previous cases—will we get more details in a future book or be too busy keeping up with the current case?
Tom: It’s too good a device to ignore. Giving an ongoing character a past is sooo important.
KRL: You’ve done a lot of work for film and television—how does that compare to writing this book?
Tom: I miss the excitement and energy of TV, but I’m enjoying the chance to really get into Barney and my other running characters.
KRL: Most writers have enough trouble with one plot and few red herrings. Cross Purposes had enough plots, sub-plots and intrigue to almost make Barney forget about all the California sun. How hard is it as a writer to keep all the threads moving along without forgetting one?
Tom: It can be difficult. It’s why I outline.
KRL: Most importantly, when is the next book coming out?
Tom: Hopefully, next year. Its title: A Major Production!
To enter to win a copy of Cross Purposes, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Cross,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 23, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.