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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!

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“Great Book!” Five-Star Review of The Stand In

25 Apr

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.

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.

Loose Ends

31 Jan

1. Susan Schnelbach has created a great blog for readers and writers alike. I was lucky enough to be the subject of an author interview. Head on over to The Tameri Blog and give it a read.

2. My head is spinning from the rave reviews on Amazon for The Stand In.  (I swear my mother had nothing to do with them.) Seriously, I’m so grateful for readers, and reader who review. Thank you.

3. Kobo and Sony eReaders, fear not. You’ve been so patient. BookBaby has assured me that The Stand In will be available in both of these formats soon. No exact dates, but it will happen.

4. And finally, my former German publisher is reading The Stand In, considering publishing. My earlier books were translated into 23 languages.  Cross your fingers and stay tuned!

Best,
Brad

Read a Chapter from My Newest Mystery, The Stand In

10 Jan

I’ve posted a chapter from my newest mystery, The Stand In here. I’d be thrilled if you would read it. And unlike other authors, I love feedback and it doesn’t all have to be five star.

Although, that’s wonderful.

The Stand In “More Than Just a Killer Smile”

19 Dec

“The Stand In” has debuted. My third novel is a noir mystery set in 1957 Hollywood was inspired by an anecdote from Joseph L. Mankiewicz about a Famous Movie Star. What would you do if you discovered your leading man was a serial killer? It’s available on Kindle, eBooks and iTunes Books for only $4.99.

Kindle lovers buy it here for $4.99.

eBook fans buy it here for $3.99. 

And MacAddicts may buy it on iTunes. 

Be the first to review! And thank you for reading and supporting this writer. 

How to Write a Mystery Novel

3 Dec

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.

Cover Art for My New Hollywood, Mystery Novel, The Stand In

2 Dec

Cover Art, The Stand In

Cover art created by Augusto Ferriols. The chalk outline, the handsome actor… “more than a killer smile.” The book will be available on Kindle via BookBaby in just a few days.

Hollywood Murder and Intrigue, The Stand In– The Story Behind the Novel

30 Nov

The few friends and colleagues who have read “The Stand In” prior to its publication have asked me, to a one, if it is based on a true story.  Yes, I answer, and…no.  It is actually based on an anecdote told to me by my longtime mentor and idol, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the Academy Award winning director and writer of “Letter to Three Wives,” “All About Eve”, and “Cleopatra.”  My thesis in film school was a critical reevaluation of “Cleopatra”, his film with Elizabeth Taylor, and I became acquainted with the great man when I called him up for an interview.

I have always loved stories of Old Hollywood, and Mr. Mankiewicz had plenty.  A born storyteller, he could hold me rapt for hours.  One anecdote, about a Well-Known Star whose face was destroyed in a car wreck, became the seed that germinated my latest novel.  The Star’s studio, you see, was unwilling to let go of so profitable a property, and made the decision to finish the film he was doing with his photo double.  For “The Stand In”, I extrapolated a far more lurid conclusion – so that’s why I say it is both true and untrue.

It is set in the year 1957, a time when Hollywood was reeling from two terrible blows; the Studio System was imploding and television was taking away its audience.  I have always loved the decline of an era, when everything begins to curdle. My historical novels have always been set in the sunset of an empire; and the same holds true for “The Stand In”.  Give me a story of corruption and intrigue over brave, honest pioneers any time.

When I write, I like to shut out the world with my headphones full of moody music.  I therefore listen to film scores, with their many dissonances and blessed lack of song lyrics.  In fact before I begin a book, I choose an album that becomes its own de facto soundtrack.  In the case of “The Stand In” I listened to a compendium of themes by the composer Alex North, another of my idols, who can break your heart in six notes.  Another album was the music to the film “The Bad and the Beautiful”, a picture with Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner that purported to show all the dirt attendant to the filmmaking business.   Needless to say, with its lush romantic and themes and tawdry brass accompaniments it was the perfect background music for “The Stand In”.

I loved writing this book, because I mined my own life for its details.  I remember going as a kid to the same restaurants my characters go to and traversing the same streets that they themselves walk.  Hollywood was much more splendid then – largely because it was a closed set.  The studios were fantasy fortresses that you had to storm if you wanted to go inside; they weren’t owned by huge entertainment conglomerates which today give tours of their back lots for the price of a ticket and spill all their secrets in their marketing campaigns.  Something has been lost, I think, in the total exploitation of every aspect of film making.  Glamor, I think.

Did this story really happen?  Yes, I say…and no.

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