DOWN and OUT by Marcy Dyer ~ a review

Down and Out


From the first words of the first chapter, the author pulls me right into the life of Candace Downs — her situation, her hardships.

Candace originally hailed from Texas, but has been working as a publicist with a Christian theater ministry in New York City. Having just lost that job, she returns home to work in her cousin Carl’s repo business on the night shift. She’s had to condense all her worldly possessions into one suitcase and a carry-on piece of luggage. Having acquired an aging VW Beetle with holes in its floorboard, she shows up for work at the repo agency in what she thinks of as “work clothes,” a skirt and blouse with heels.

That’s when she meets Josiah Bradley, the handsome owner of Viper Security, who has been assigned to train her for her first two weeks on the job. He takes one look at her appearance and thinks she won’t last long. Her partner on the night shift, Beth Anne, takes an immediate dislike to her and calls her “Barbie.” Candace, in a tit-for-tat, returns the favor by calling Beth Anne “Dumpling.” However, Candace soon shows she’s got some mettle. Just as Candace and Beth Anne begin to iron out their differences, Candace is assigned to tow the car of a bank night security guard, Lucien Robard, after his car has been struck in an accident. He is taken by her beauty, begins stalking her, and has designs to turn her into “the perfect wife,” even if he has to beat her into submission

The author ratchets up Lucien’s craziness in a very eerie way. I could feel him mentally upping the stakes as his threats and actions became more menacing, as serial offenders do. The reader gets a glimpse of his madness when in his inner dialog he recall the other women who had not lived up to his expectations. That served to make me wonder what had happened to them. Of course, I could only surmise they were no longer among the living and that question was answered by the end of the book.

One of the most charming elements of the story are the three quirky old lady relatives (Granny and her sisters, Aunt Gertie, and Aunt Bertie). We meet the eccentric trio when they get into a fender bender. The other driver shoves Granny and Aunt Gertie wallops him with her Bible while Aunt Bertie beams him with her umbrella. We later catch them going to a line dancing class and to my surprise they were not members of the class, but teaching teenage girls all the moves.

This story could be considered inspirational, or it could be considered a thriller with major characters who are people of faith. It is not primarily a preachy story. It is definitely an action packed thriller. There were some editing issues with prepositions left out, more so toward the end of the novel. In Today’s publishing environment, this type of thing has become all too common.

Queens Neighborhood: Home of Lufthansa Heist Mobster

I dropped Darling Daughter #3 off at her high school this morning as usual. It’s not that all of a sudden I stopped being a grumble crunch and turned into Mary Poppins Mom, no. If I don’t drive her she’d be late every day. She comes home herself via public transit. So, I said to my self, “Self, I’m on the Belt (Belt Parkway) and it would take about ten minutes to get to Howard Beach. So, let’s go.” So, I went.

As I drove around the snow encrusted streets of this upscale waterside Queens neighborhood, I pondered how it took 35 years to make an arrest in this infamous 35-year old case…the Lufthansa heist which the Martin Scorsese 1990 movie “Good-fellas” made infamous. The thing is, the robbery’s mastermind, James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke (portrayed in the film by Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway) made sure most of the men on the “crew” didn’t live to tell. The chances of anyone ratting from the grave are nil. However, now some evidence has surfaced, including digging up the body in a mob hit done in 1969.

IMG_0799First I stopped at St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church, a long respected institution in the neighborhood that also has a thriving school. I’m well aware that Howard Beach was the home of mob king John Gotti, but I prefer to think of the folks who go to St. Helen’s as being truly representative of the community.

IMG_0805Then I took the road to the backside of Howard Beach, which edges on a wetland. I’ve driven this road several times and it’s always a bit eerie to me. Off in those reeds beyond the bend is where, if I were a mobster, I imagine I’d bury or sink the dead bodies. But it might be a protected wetland and then when law enforcement tried to dig them up they might run into problems with the EPA. Actually, no, I think murder would trump in that scenario.

IMG_0807I didn’t look for any crime scene tape on a house, or something ornate or walled-in that might resemble a mob residence so I could then photograph it. Living in Brooklyn lo these many years, has led me to believe that might not be a very healthy thing to do. Although I can’t imagine why, as a great many mob-wives readily display their homes on reality TV shows. I don’t watch those shows and so wouldn’t recognize any of those houses if I drove right past them.

IMG_0811I did snap shots of typical neighborhood homes, many of which still had their outdoor Christmas decorations up because it’s way to cold to take them down due to the arctic deep-freeze New York has been going through these last few weeks.

IMG_0815Then I hit the main drag, Cross Bay Boulevard, and stopped at the legendary Lenny’s Clam House, with its gallery of notables including politicians, actors, athletes, singers, and musicians. My husband Joseph and I have eaten here and also at a steakhouse we enjoyed that is now long gone.Both have been rumored to have served a mobster or two.

IMG_0817Now when I drive to Howard Beach, I usually stop at Starbucks where I open my laptop and work on my next novel, or I pull out my Kindle and read something hot in Christian indie fiction or crime fiction while I sip a cup of Tazo Awake tea. When in Howard Beach, I want to stay fully awake, as I might pick up some ideas for my next crime fiction novel.

“Perfectionism” ~ Not in My Blessing Jar


Last year, I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions. I’d heard about “blessing jars” and I had this old tin I liked a lot and had kept that originally housed Russel Stover caramels. Artistic and crafty types often use a mason jar with a nice, big, pretty ribbon around its neck.

There are several ways to work with a blessing jar, but the way a writer friend told me she did it appealed to me. 1) Write a short, focused list of blessings I’m believing God for and put it into the jar. 2) Write down a few Scriptures that support those blessings and toss them in.

One of the things that did not find its way onto my list last year or this is the notion of “perfectionism.” In fact, this is as good a place as any to make a public confession. Those are quite popular, I hear. So, here is mine. I have never struggled with perfectionism. Just ask my critique partners. They will tell you, I’ve never seen a comma I liked, and I’m the schpelink queen of Brooklyn.

My husband, who’s a bit of a perfectionist (one in the family is enough, thank you) and a psychiatric social worker, tells me perfectionism is often the root-cause of such mental illnesses as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. This makes me feel smug and fully justified in embracing a more laissez faire life-style. A fav motto of mine is: don’t sweat the small stuff (and so much of it is small stuff).

So, I was filled with excitement thinking about creating the things to go into my blessing jar this year. But the best part was reading what I had in there from last year. It was like a one-year spiritual time capsule. Looking at the list of things I believed for last year, I saw what was important to me then and how I had moved on, past many of them…how I had grown.

Several items I had on last year’s list had come to pass, but not all. I pulled out several Scriptures that had presented themselves to me with such force during 2013 that I’d written them down and put them in my tin. I took a moment to ponder them and to consider why they had spoken to me so forcefully last year. One of the sweetest things was looking at the names of people I’d written down who I prayed for during the year. I prayed for many, many people last year, but it was interesting to note which ones had found their way into my blessing jar/tin.

Our family had a lovely Christmas. However, with the extreme cold and the dreary rain we’ve had in Gotham the past week, I haven’t gotten my outside decorations down yet…but I’m not sweating it.

Why Do People Love A Good Murder Mystery?

Blood, Hand Print on Diary

Isn’t it strange that death and dying are fairly taboo topics, yet millions of readers rush to get the next novel in a crime/murder mystery series?

I know from reader feedback that many love to see the bad guy get their just deserts. They want to see justice done, the victimized avenged. A good murder mystery fits that bill perfectly. And it’s interesting to note the genre originated in the Christian west. There has always been a moralistic ethos about the genre. The fight between good and evil is ever present.

There are other reasons why readers purchase millions of dollars of detective stories, cozy murder mysteries, and thrillers each year. Readers like to follow clues, pick out the red herrings, and solve the puzzle, so to speak. Where the diabolical villain is known in a thriller, they like to match wits with the bad guy.

Readers love a flawed main character they can become emotionally involved with. Their hearts beats a bit faster and they catch their breath when because of the very psychological flaw they’ve come to love him/her for, the villain has put our detective/sleuth in jeopardy. Of course, in the end, the good guy wins in fiction. If it only were so in real life.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng #8577

They Dishonor Those Truly Disabled Because of 9/11

9.11, Twin Towers Statue of Liberty 2The morning the planes hit the Twin Towers, I walked from where I had been glued to the television in my kitchen and out onto my front porch. The wind blew from the inferno in lower Manhattan charred fragments of letter head, what might have been accounting forms, and the like. They landed in my driveway and on the sidewalk in front of the house, and in the street.

Weeks and then months went by and every time I drove past a funeral parlor, members of the New York Police Department and New York Fire Department were in dress uniforms for yet another funeral. The funerals seemed endless.

Workers toiled for endless hours trying first to save victims, then switching to recovery. One of my neighbors who is licensed to work with heavy equipment volunteered day-after-day at Ground Zero hoping to find the remains of his cousin. He never did. Many put their own health at risk. These are the heroes.

So, it galls me to no end when a good 100 members of the New York City Police Department and the New York City Fire Department allegedly faked mental illnesses and psychological maladies claiming they were “traumatized” by their work at Ground Zero and then turn around and collect Social Security benefits into the hundreds of thousands of dollars each. And they say more arrests will come.

I applaud New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance for busting these criminal cops and firefighters. If they are guilty of what they’ve been charged (and it appears they are), they dishonor their uniform. They trivialize those who were truly disabled and traumatized by the terrorist attack on 9/11. They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

It is said these suspects have cheated tax payer of $21.4 million dollars. I know a million doesn’t go as far as it used to, but that’s still a lot of money that belongs to the people. A 200-page indictment claims these individuals collected between $30K – $50K per year for succumbing to supposed crippling emotional ailments following the 9/11 attack, such as deep depression, post traumatic stress syndrome, severe anxiety, and the like.

As will often be the case, these guys felt untouchable and so they lived openly flamboyant lifestyles. They posted photos on Facebook of themselves living large and dashed off tweets. One of the suspects who claimed to be terrified of crowds was found selling cannolis at the St. Gennaro Festival in Little Italy which always has wall-to-wall crowds. Another was working as a martial arts instructor. The 70-year old ringleader coached them on how to come off as mental patients before hand-picked psychiatrists…this coaching, of course, was allegedly for a nice kickback.

Oh, what a web they wove. But it was a small thing that tripped them up in the end. Many of them applied for gun permits in which they stated they were mentally stable enough to carry a firearm.

Note: Photo courtesy of The Creative Commons.