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Another 5-star review for my mystery, “The Stand In”… thanks for making my day!

4 May

I thoroughly enjoyed The Stand In. I have just returned to living in LA after living in the Southeast for 25 plus years. I was in the mood for something “LA-ish” and with the feel of old school like the Noir films I used to love to watch. The Stand In hit the spot- Beagley’s knowledge of LA made the read really fun and the twists and turns as he unfolds the mystery kept me entranced and interested in where the story was going. I highly recommend this book!

Talking Books with Connie Martinson

18 Apr

Talking Books with Connie Martinson

Click the link to watch a little interview on the occasion of my first book.

And in case you were wondering, I’ve only gotten more handsome with age.

How to Write a Mystery Novel…

16 Apr

I’ve got a few new tricks up my sleeve this week and thought I’d revisit a topic that I posted about early in the life of this blog. I’d love to hear from the aspiring and published writers on this topic. Enjoy! Brad

How to create a mystery novel?  Of course, the answer is to read as many mysteries as possible.  There are no better models than the classics by Raymond Chandler or the modern thrillers written by Martin Cruz Smith – who I unashamedly admit to be my lord of lords, creator of the Moscow-based detective, Arkady Renko, who first appeared in Gorky Park.  (I would sacrifice a very private portion of my anatomy if I could write a fraction as well as Mr. Smith can – the left one, in fact.)  You can even learn something from Janet Evanovich, who is more machine these days than writer.  Though her plots may be thin and repetitious, they still obey certain rules that a new writer can observe, internalize, and replicate.

I never wanted to write mysteries.  I wanted to write historical novels along the lines of those written by Mika Waltari (The Egyptian) or Gary Jennings (Aztec).  But no one wants to read these epics today, and certainly no publishing house wants to publish them either.  (All those pages – such expense!)  But historical mysteries are another matter.  Mysteries, you see, rarely take more than a month to solve in a novel’s timeline.  They are never epics.  I like to tell my students that mysteries are not like symphonies, with hundreds of musicians, but more like chamber pieces with eight musicians at most.

So my first mysteries were set in Ancient Egypt and Babylon respectively, allowing me to write about history, true, but using the format of a mystery and keeping the action fast, hard-hitting, and distinctly non-epic.  My books have been called, as a result, “pharaonic noir” and my detective, Semerket, the clerk of investigations and secrets, an “Egyptian Sam Spade.”

I like it best when a detective is a flawed man, like my poor, alcoholic Semerket, so that in addition to solving the mystery at hand he must also solve part of the mystery within himself. Like the protagonists in Martin Cruz Smith novels, they also become the seat of moral authority.  All around them are crimes, official corruption, and indifference, but they remain committed to the truth, regardless of how unpleasant it is.  No matter how dark or dismal they are, they become heroic in the process – and your readers root for their success.

As to the plot, I like to think of it as a beautiful, decorated plate – intact and gorgeous – that has been viciously smashed to pieces by the crime at its center.  It is your detective’s task to pick up the pieces one by one, to find how they once fit together.  He or she is constantly picking up this piece and that piece in random order, until by the end of the book the plate has been put back together – irretrievably damaged, of course, but whole.  And though the mystery is solved, the denouement (literally, “untying” in French) should always resolve itself in a melancholic mood – for by solving the crime we come to know how unpleasant and corrupt the detective’s (and our) world really is.

In a mystery, the secondary characters are almost as important as your detective protagonist, because they will mostly fall into two groups – the criminal(s) and the “information passers”.  Each of these characters has one of the pieces of the plate in their possession; for reasons of their own, usually because they are implicated in the crime, they are sometimes reluctant to surrender it.  Others may be too willing to give up their piece, their information, but they are suspect, too.  Not only must your detective gather these pieces, the clues, but also perceive why and how these people who surrender them to him are connected to the crime, and how valuable their information really is.

Now, having said this, I have to confess that my latest mystery, The Stand In, violates most of these rules.  There is no real central detective; instead, the readers themselves take on this role.  This is because the story is actually a “smoke and mirrors” mirage – a special effect, if you will, something that Hollywood does so well – and Hollywood is the location of the novel, after all.  What is the truth?  What is really happening?  It’s all there in front of your eyes, yet it seems like something else is happening altogether….  Some will figure it out right away, others must wait until the very last sentence in the book…which is last piece of that plate.

Excuse Me, Are Those Your Fangs in My Neck? Part Two

8 Apr

 I’ve just released the first half of my vampire book, The Chronicles of the Sanguivorous – The Rising as an eBook.  I had started the book almost two years ago after reading Charlaine Harris’s “True Blood” series.  Inspired, I knew I could write about vampires through the lens of my own specialty, historical fiction, and actually tell the history of civilization (albeit through the eyes of vampires) in the seven volume series.  I did enormous amounts of research about vampires’ historical/mythological origins and discovered they were first mentioned in early Mesopotamia, around the time that the city of Ur rose to prominence (or “Ur of the Chaldees” as the Bible calls it.)  This was a fortunate turn of events, because I had already versed myself in Mesopotamian history for my second novel, Day of the False King.

I had long been a devotee of Egyptian history, and the one thing you discover about ancient Egypt is how consistent its historical flow was when compared to other civilizations.  Protected by its deserts, Egypt developed slowly, always in the service and celebration of its God-Kings.  But the study of Mesopotamia (called Assyriology) is a heartrending hodgepodge of invasions, battles, and massacres.  The people of the river plains between the Tigris and Euphrates did not deify their kings; rather, whoever was in charge was simply called the Big Man; and these men changed with stunning swiftness.  Armies of invaders would sweep in, establishing a turbulent new culture, only to be swept away again a few generations later.  Egypt possessed regularity in abundance; Mesopotamia was all chaos and confusion.

So, getting back to the vampires, I had a good head start on my first historical locale.  I wrote about 150 pages of the book and then made the mistake of going to my public library and seeing the array of titles in the New Books section.  Every other one of them was about vampires.  Disheartened, I put my writing aside – though all my friends who had read it loved it and pleaded for more.

One of the most fun things about attempting to write this series is creating a new mythology for my own vampires.  It seems  one of their first mythical Big Men, Lugal (actually the father of Gilgamesh, the greatest semi-divine hero in Mesopotamian literature) was known for his incredible licentiousness.  In other words, he’d sleep with anything.  Wind Demons who populated the river plains wanted a corporeal body, so they offered themselves up to Lugal.  Their mating indeed produced offspring with bodies that resembled humans, but they also came equipped with a terrifying appetite for human blood – i.e., vampires.

So MY vampires are actually a form of super-predator that have been around for as long as humans have been; one of their powers is that they can actually utilize telekinesis that enables them to control the winds (which is where we get the myth that they were the offspring of Wind Demons.)   In my books, when the winds blow – watch out, for that is how they hide their rising after years of hibernation.  They do NOT get burned by the sun, nor do they sleep in coffins.  Their aversion to light, however, exists because they hunt humans only at night and their keen vision enables them to see as clearly in the dark as we do during the day; they avoid strong light simply because it’s agony on their eyes.  They are immortal, in the sense that they do not age, but the CAN be killed by several methods.

Their main defense, however, lies in the fact that after a few generations of terrorizing the countryside, they are driven by a hibernation instinct to burrow into the ground and disappear.  During the time they are gone, mankind forgets about them and turns them into myth.  Generations later, the vampires rise again – by this time merely shriveled bags of bones and leather – to once again maraud and terrify and feast.  The blood they ingest enables them to “read” the cellular memories of their victims, allowing them to understand the current language and to know what has occurred while they slept.

In my first volume, The Rising, the vampires discover that mankind has developed something fairly new – organized religion.  Their great predatory powers of swiftness and strength can convince humans that they are gods, and they begin to co-opt the temples.  They no longer have to hunt, you see, for they invent a new ritual – human sacrifice.  Thus their prey is driven to them.

Each book ends with the vampires once again “going to ground”, and in the next volume they rise into an entirely new historical era.  (In the second book they will become the gods Homer’s “Iliad”; the Trojan War, you will discover, was an internecine struggle between various tribes of Vampires, who utilized humans in their own civil war.)  And in the third book, set in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago, we will see how Christianity itself was their product, too.  Surely you’ve heard of all that “blood into wine” stuff…well, now you know why.

Uniting all this will be my central couple, Aron and Enna.  Theirs is a love story that quite literally spans five-thousand years of history.  Newlyweds separated by the rise of Vampires, themselves made victims of it, they search for one another across time.  Aron will increasingly wish to discover what Vampires really are, and why some of their victims “turn”  – the only way they can reproduce – while others simply die.  In some volumes, Aron will be on the run, for humans (particularly in that little burg known as Transylvania) soon get wise to their ways and begin to hunt them down.  But through it all, we will see how Vampires were present at every great moment of human history.  It is also my conceit that when they rise, human fascination with vampires in arts and culture rise as well.

The last time they rose, you see, was in the late 1800s – just about the time that Bram Stoker’s little novel made an appearance.  But this new modern age is also an era when religion has receded for the first time and replaced by secularism – the biggest threat to the Vampire race.

That’s my Chronicles of the Sanguivorous in a nutshell.  I’m not going to give away anything more; for that you’ll have to plunk down your 99 cents. Whether you’re a fan of historical fiction or vampires, I hope you enjoy them – and be sure to write and let me know what you think.

Are vampires your guilty pleasure?

29 Mar

Mine too. But not the sparkly teen variety. I’m more a Bram Stoker fan. My contribution to vampire literature is now available on Amazon and you can be one of the first to download, read and review. If you do offer a review, (good or bad) let me know and if you’re a blog follower, I’ll send you one of my favorite books to say thank you. Sanguivorous means blood-eater, by the way. And you’ll want to know that my dear friends who’ve read it have said I gave them nightmares. Did I mention the first volume is only 99cents? Barely a bite.

Book Review, An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin

27 Mar

 One approaches novels written by celebrities with almost an air of condescension.  The poor dears, one sighs, trying to find fulfillment – or perhaps respect – in that most difficult of media.  They are usually minor works, like Woody Allen’s, into which he usually pours all his leftover witticisms and spare gags; or they are works of pretentious autobiography, as found in the collective oeuvre of Ethan Hawke.  Invariably the novels are lean, to say the least, more in the nature of an embellished skit than a full-blown work on its own.

That’s why I am particularly surprised and happy to say that Steve Martin has written a real novel, a true novel, one that is, at best, a signal that a major new writer has appeared on the scene – hidden in plain sight all the time!  The book is, in fact, a minor masterpiece.  (And when I say “minor”, I mean only that the subject matter – the highbrow world of the Manhattan Art and Gallery scenes – is a rarified one that only a very few of the one-percenters get to visit in our lifetimes.)  Fortunately for us, Mr. Martin is a well-known collector of modern paintings and well-versed in his subjects.  In short, this is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.

Martin writes in the first person, but under the name of Daniel Chester French, who is an upwardly mobile art critic for ArtNews.  As Somerset Maugham does in his books, Martin/French is content to remain only a minor character, able to comment on the true center of his work, that “object of beauty” herself, the gallery-owner known as Lacey Yeager.  In Lacey, Martin has created a extremely memorable combination of Holly Golightly fused with Cleopatra.  Seductive, amoral, charming, destructively ambitious (both to herself and others in her sphere) and winsomely devious, Lacey becomes a character so believable that you know you’ve either met her once or twice before at some pretentious party, or, more likely, she was your first wife.  At the end of the book, Martin confesses (in Daniel’s voice) that he didn’t know whether or not to make the book into a non-fiction work using real names or to bury the work in fiction.  My bet is that for those in the know this is a true roman a clef.

The pacing is perfect.  The world the book inhabits is endless fascinating.  And the discourse in modern art is nothing short of wonderful.  Best, it is illustrated in color plates that show the paintings being discussed; one doesn’t have to go back and forth to Wikipedia to find out just what the hell he is talking about.

“An Object of Beauty” does everything a novel is supposed to do; it keeps you reading at a breakneck pace; it both amuses and edifies, and you end up knowing more than when you went in.  My only question for Steve Martin is this: how can so much talent (comic, actor, writer, playwright, musician, art collector) be stuffed into one individual?

It’s not fair, I tell you!  Just not fair.

More About My Upcoming Novel, Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, The Rising

19 Mar

Where were we? Ah, more about my upcoming novel, Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, The Rising. As you read this, it’s being churned from a word doc to a .mobi and so on, so you can download it on Kindle, iPad or Nook. I promise you’ll know the moment it appears. And we’re doing everything we can to make the first volume free.

My own conceit is that vampires are a species of super-predators that appear periodically in history to “thin the herds.”  After slumbering in the earth for hundreds of years, during which the memory of their last rising has been forgotten or turned into folk tales by mankind, they rise again – shriveled, gaunt and ferociously thirsty – to wreak havoc on the populations they encounter.  Blood itself carries “cellular memories” so that vampires become instantly aware of languages and what has happened since they last “went to ground.”

In  “The Rising”, they discover that mankind has begun to settle in cities (in particularly the city of Ur of the Chaldees) and that the rudiments of religion are being created.  It is at that moment in history when the Earth Mother has given way to the Sky Gods.  They cleverly seize on religion, claiming to be ferocious gods who demand human sacrifice.  The prey is thus brought to them; in fact, the first novel concludes in the historically true vaults of Ur, where a tremendous amount of human skeletons were discovered, all part of a mass human sacrificial ritual.

After an indeterminate number of years on earth, the Sanguivorous are irresistibly called again to slumber in soil and rock.  Each book begins with them awaking into a new age.  In book two, for instance, a civil war brews between the vampire tribes.  They, in fact, become the gods and goddesses worshipped by the Trojans and the Greeks, and “The Iliad” is retold from their vampire perspective.  Book three takes place in Jerusalem, beginning in Bethlehem…well, let’s just say that the phrase “blood into wine” takes on a whole new meaning.  And so on, right up into the late nineteenth century when they rise again, spurring an entire new interest in vampires through the likes of Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi, and all the rest.  Would it surprise you that they might make an appearance, too?

Uniting all these books will be the story of Aron and Enna, lovers from prehistoric Mesopotamia, whose wedding night is torn asunder by murderous winds – the first sign that the Blood Eaters are rising – and who become the victims of a family feud that is played out for three millennia.

And there you have the story in a nutshell.

But will you do me a favor?  After you read the book, will you please write to me and let me know what you think of the story?  Have I jumped on the vampire bandwagon too late?  Is the public thoroughly sick of the entire genre?  Should I even continue?

Let me know – and, while you’re doing that, take a moment to download The Stand In, too.  I promise you, no vampires there.  Just a damn good thriller.

Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, Not Just Another Vampire Novel

18 Mar

Sanguivorous means blood-eater.

Allow me to present to you, my newest novel. And very soon, dear reader, will be able to download Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, The Rising for free.

The novel is part of a planned seven book series that I’ve outlined, called The Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, with the first book being subtitled, “The Rising.”  As some of you might have already guessed, it’s about vampires.

I love vampire stories; they’ve always appealed to me, all the way back to when I was a kid and read Dracula for the first time.  Then Interview with the Vampire came along, which still is the overly prolific Anne Rice’s greatest work.  I particularly enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse books and love HBO’s “True Blood” series made from them.  Somehow, the working class South and eternal vampires make for a potent combination, and my hat’s off to Charlaine Harris for coming up with such a winning concept.

So, inspired– I decided to write my own vampire series, bringing my own particular historical twist to them.  I had always wanted to write a time travel book about a love that lasted for centuries, but I didn’t want to write science fiction.  I take the story all the way back to the beginning of history when vampires were first mentioned in the historical records.

That turned out to be in Mesopotamia, which is a very convenient place for me to write about because I had done extensive research on it for my second best-selling novel, Day of the False King, which is set in ancient Babylon.  It is believed by scholars that the vampire legends first arose there, when wind demons, desiring a corporeal body, mated with the depraved King Lugal.  Their misbegotten spawn became the vampire of legend.

(Stay tuned… details about the upcoming novel in my next post.) 

Have You Read, The Stand In?

27 Feb
Couldn’t resist sharing my latest review on Amazon! Have you read it? You can download it on Kindle, Nook and iTunes for iPad.
New! B. Maxwell reviewed The Stand In
 Grabs You From Page One February 24, 2012
Given to me by a friend, I couldn’t put this book down! On its surface it’s about a 50’s Hollywood movie idol who uses his celebrity to seduce and kill young women until his studio mogul boss begins to suspect him. Instead of going to the police and risking his #1 asset, the mogul decides to secretly replace him with an innocent young actor with an uncanny resemblance. But will his true role be replacement or fall-guy? Along the way the plot twists and turns, drawing you in with characters that, true to life, are both seduced by their dreams of success and love, and battered by the reality of what this town does to you. So what author Geagley ends up unspooling is a seductive thriller with wry insider’s view of Hollywood. Oh, and you’ll never guess the ending.

A Little Crowing for My Latest Novel

26 Jan

A review posted tonight for The Stand In on Amazon… “Nothing like reading a book & enjoying the excitement of not wanting to put it down so as to keep lusting for what is going to happen next! Mr. Geagley has a knack for setting you right in the midst of this Hollywood era when the words “who done it?” was a bitter reality for those caught up in the outrageous lifestyles of the rich & famous. Notoriety, money, greed…. What a combo! I was able to visualize his characters so vividly which adds that edginess of prejudicial suspicion! Didn’t think I would enjoy a “modern day” read from this Author since his expertise seemed to be prominently in Egyptian History. Surprise, surprise!”

Thank you for indulging me. 

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