Cry To Heaven by Anne Rice

What do you do when the unspeakable has been done to you? Who do you reach out to when there is nobody? Where do you go when you no longer have a home? How do you protect yourself when you dare not let them see your tears? That’s when you cry to heaven.

This is the situation fifteen year old Tonio Treschi faces, the hero in Anne Rice’s monstrously dark novel, Cry To Heaven.

Set in Venice, Naples, and Rome, the author uses lush prose to present to us the Italian opera of the 18th century, complete with its castrato. Let me include a little side note here. Rice doesn’t mince words when it comes to difficult subject matter. Of course the opera, particularly the Italian opera, has been built upon the backs of mutilated indigent little boys. This was due to the Roman Catholic Church’s ban against women on the stage.

Tonio, brought up in a sheltered, nearly reclusive home discovers a few skeletons in the family closet. Not long after that he’s brutally betrayed. He struggles with his sexuality and manhood  in the most heart wrenching manner. Some may want to shy away from the sexual scenes, but it can be argued they are central to the story. To say the least, the sexual climate of the Italian opera in the 1750s was bawdy. The escapades of the aristocracy amoral, and Rice doesn’t doesn’t soften that or conceal it from the reader. It is what it is.

Tonie captured my heart. Early in the book I could see disaster coming long before he did. Well, he was only a child, and adored and over-protected one at that. How could he see the plots around him that were a danger to him? I found myself silently admonishing him. “Nooooo, don’t do that.” I kept turning pages because I cared about Tonio. I wanted it to be all right for him at the end, and that was never a given in this story.

Give The Villian What He Wants

I’m a dutiful student in the fascinating and informative class Rob Preese is teaching for the Kiss of Death Chapter of Romance Writers of Ameria (RWA).  It’s hosted by the chapter’s COFFIN  or College of Felony and Intrigue.

Rob’s calling the class What the Kick-Ass Heroine Knows That The Author Should Know. It’s about martial arts, fighting, and weapons in mystery and suspense.


I have writer Gina Welbourne to thank for this, as she won the course in a writing contest and wasn’t able to take it, so she gifted it to me. A million thanks Gina.

I’m so into this week’s lesson. It’s about the heroine giving her opponent (the bad guy) what he wants, so that she can ultimately win. Rob instructed the class to write our scenes so that our heroine would go with the motion of a bad guy attacker with a knife rather than oppose the motion. That would use the opponents own body movement against him. Then the heroine could strike her own blow.

The idea of giving the villain what he wants brought back to me in an unforgettable scene from Lee Child’s thriller Tripwire. At the end of the story, the nearly undefeatable hero, Jack Reacher is shot while trying to save the woman he loves from a very clever and heinous villain. Jack is losing blood fast and is in serious trouble. That right there is enough to send Jack Reacher fans seeking therapy. To make matters worse, Reacher thinks there’s a chance he may die. At this point fans are grabbing their Prozac. So what does Reacher consciously decide to do. He gives his opponent what he is waiting for. Reacher fakes greater weakness than he has. He fakes the condition he will actually be in shortly. His opponent who has a huge ego and can’t envision losing leaves himself open to make his last strike (using a gun) against an opponent he thinks is incapable of shooting back..and simultaneously moves to grab the woman (who is the one one the villain really wants). Reacher then shoots and kills his evil opponent. Of course then the ambulance comes to take the seriously injured Jack Reacher for medical attention and fans grab for more Prozac.

I did something akin to this in my historical mystery (1946). The hero is in an old Victorian house trying to save the heroine. He’s been shot, but just grazed. It’s weakened him some, but not a lot. Like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher my hero feigns it’s more than it is.

However, he doesn’t only rely upon that. He’s out gunned. He’s got a Smith and Wesson revolver with one bullet left and his opponent’s got a shot gun with unlimited ammo. What the opponent doesn’t know is my hero’s got a second fully loaded pistol tucked into his trouser waistband at his back. He’s also got a knife sheathed in his boot.

The opponent taunts my hero admonishing that he better be a good shot with that one remaining bullet…and my hero gives him what he wants. It’s a difficult shot to take, one that may not hit it’s mark. My hero takes the shot, not missing by a mile, but missing. Then he uses his second pistol when the opponent gleefully charges into the room to finish him  off. Another instance of giving the villain what he wants to gain victory over him. — Rob cautioned me to make sure the hero’s first shot was a serious one, that the hero wouldn’t waste his first shot. I’m going to go back to the manuscript to make sure it actually reads that way.

My hero had a problem with that shot, in that, the angle was off. The villian is on higher ground…up on a staircase shooting down at the hero. That was another thing we studied in the course…angles. Mostly body angles in marital arts, but it would apply to this scene as well. Angles are very important in fight scenes.

Thirteen Methods of Murder Most Foul


.1. Arsenic (poison in general…)

2. Stab and/or impale

3. Bury alive and/or seal in a wall

4. Insect bite/snake bite, or other venomous creature (said creature, of course, carefully placed)

5. Smother with a pillow,/poisonous gas

6. Beat or stomp them to death

7. Throw out a window or off a roof

8. kidnap, torture, maim, mutilate

8. Pay a hit man to do it for you.

9.Use a gun

10. Drown

11. Hit  and/or run over with a car, truck, or other vehicle

12. Tie to a tree and let exposure or wild animals do the deed

13. Throw victim in a furnace or freezer (my 13 year old daughter came up with this one…ghoulish, positively ghoulish)

A Shred of Truth, Second Aramis Black Novel by Eric Wilson

What would you do if a Scripture spouting sociopath captured your mother, the mother you believed had been murdered twenty years ago when you were just a child? This is the dilemma facing hero Aramis Black in Eric Wilson’s A Shred of Truth.

Although not a new Eric Wilson book, I read the first in the series some time ago and had this one on my very long “to read list.” I’m glad I got to it. Now if I could get to some of the others on my list.

The novel opens when Aramis’s country western singer brother Johnny Ray’s interest in redheads gets him tied to a statue with the letters “AX” carved into his shoulder. Out this scene comes my favorite line in the book — short, snappy, and to the point: A test in red.

In addition, the kidnapper forces Aramis’s former girlfriend to participate in his twisted head games and then brutally murders her. To further compound Aramis’s problem, the villain has specified no cops. Yet Nashville’s Detective Meade insists on tailing Aramis, possibly placing his mother in still more jeopardy.

I love what Wilson has done with Aramis’s voice in this second book of the series. The protagonist seems matured, somehow. Perhaps due to his fledgling walk with the Lord. Yet enough of his rough and tumble past linger to keep getting him into deeper and deeper trouble. He’s still a hothead, but with reservations. That rash aspect of his personality now seems tempered by his relationship with God. Aramis has grown. It’s been two years since he fled from the politically nihilistic gang he ran with in Portland, and little by little he’s been tearing free of the violent chains of that past.

Wilson poses more questions about the state of human kind than he answers, but perhaps that’s for the best.

Announcing The Inspy Finalists In Thriller/Mystery/Crime

The Inspy Finalists in Thriller/Suspense/Crime are:

Priceless by Tom Davis, David C Cook, 1st June, 2010

The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello, Thomas Nelson, 16th March, 2010

The Knight by Steven James, Revell Books, 1st August, 2009

Dead Reckoning by Ronie Kendig, Abingdon Press, 1st March, 2010

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker, Hodder & Stoughton, 27th May, 2010