It is with immense pleasure that I bring to you today my next feature post on another indie author, whose work I have been closely following for a while now — in fact, since he published his first Shelby Alexander thriller series book, back in 2016. His name is Craig A. Hart, and it’s been a thrill for me to witness Craig mature and develop in his career as a writer. There have been 11 novels published in the meantime, between his Alexander and his SpyCo series (the latter which he has been co-writing with Scott J. Varengo since book 2), with another one scheduled to come out in the next couple of months.
I asked Craig to supply me with a little bio of his (and maybe a little bit more, just to sate out terrible, cat-like curiosity), and to my dismay he was quite circumspect about himself and his achievements. Not that I don’t understand him perfectly — writing about ourselves is mostly akin to torture… Without much further ado, therefore, here is Craig together with what he had to say about himself:
Craig A. Hart is the stay-at-home father of twin boys, his most important job. Secondly, he is the author of the Shelby Alexander Thriller Series and the SpyCo Novella Series. A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Craig lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
Not that much to go on, is there? I agree. As with all our favourite authors, we wish to know more than this. And you almost despair when you realise that you will not be able to glean any new details from his Amazon author page, from his Twitter profile, or from his Facebook group page, which you definitely must join. Nor, I have to say, will you get any further satisfaction from Craig’s website, which reads exactly the same as he sent us — but which you absolutely must visit, and especially subscribe to.
If you happen to be a bookworm and find yourself in GoodReads, then here’s Craig’s GoodReads author page — where you can finally find out a bit more about him. This is where we learn, for instance, that he is not just a writer, but also an editor, which goes a long way to explain how and why his ARCs are so clean and perfect first time round, and no trouble to read.
We also learn that he worked as editor-in-chief for the Rusty Nail literary magazine magazine, as a manager for Sweatshoppe Media, and also as director for Northern Illinois Radio Information Service, which he describes as “an outreach that brought daily news and information to the visually impaired“.
So, what else do we find out from his GoodReads page? Quite a lot, actually. Here’s what he tells us on his profile:
He has been published in The Orange Room Review, Voices, The Stray Branch, Red Poppy Review, The Mindful Word, Inclement, Right Hand Pointing, 7×20 Magazine, and others.
In 2015, Kindle Press published his novel Becoming Moon. NPR affiliate Northern Public Radio featured Becoming Moon in their Winter Book Series, and it won Best Novel of Summer 2015 from Pinnacle Awards.
Besides his award-winning novel, Craig is the author of The Writer’s Tune-Up Manual, The Busy Writer, and The Girl Who Read Hemingway.
He is also the author of the new Shelby Alexander Thriller Series. The first in the series, Serenity, released October 31, 2016.
A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Craig lives in Iowa City, Iowa with his wife, sons, and two cats.
(Ahah, a cat person!!! I knew it! I knew it! I just knew it!)
Ah-erm. Back on topic, then.
So, how can I improve on all I’ve managed to uncover about Craig A. Hart, the author? Quite a lot, actually. Over two years of emails, newsletters and media presence, I’ve learnt that Craig is a devoted husband and father, proud of his family and willing to share his pics with his reader team. In them, Craig and his wife are always looking happy and serene — and smiling.
He reads avidly and across the spectrum, and is no strange to that rarefied book space called a library, that fewer and fewer people seem to cherish these days. We have the pics to prove it, too. He always replies to his emails, which is great, and he is always very polite, and appreciative of your input.
He’s been self-publishing for most of his author journey, ever since Kindle Press published Becoming Moon in 2015. Recently, Craig set up and launched his own publishing company, Northern Lake Publishing LLC, which is currently accepting submissions of manuscripts in popular genres.
But it’s in between the lines that you catch a glimpse of his writer’s soul. I was particularly taken by the questions and answers he has on his GoodReads profile, in which I think can be glimpsed a bit of what I call a “writer’s soul”, and I wanted to leave them here, properly linked to, for all who don’t have a GoodReads profile (more recent first):
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Booze. No, seriously…okay, yeah…it’s booze.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
There aren’t that many things I love about being a writer. It’s hard work–the hardest I’ve ever done — and it’s lonely. Working to get rid of those demons is tough. On the other hand, those moments when things come together on the page yields a euphoria that is impossible to beat with any other high. That’s what I live for as a writer.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
How do you get inspired to write?
Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
Becoming Moon has its roots in my own experience. It is not a memoir, but elements of the plot, particularly Part Two, are heavily influenced by my own life.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a novel that, while not a sequel to Becoming Moon, is a variation on the themes of repressed desires, coming of age, and struggling to be oneself against the establishment.
As far as getting to know your authors goes, then, I have of course submitted Craig to my 39 Questions, which he answered with his usual candidness (though he seems to have chosen to leave two of them out). One answer however made me laugh aloud, in a mix of pleasure and surprise: that to question number eighteen, one where he describes Tom Selleck, and most particularly his rendition of Jesse Stone, as the best fit for Shelby Alexander. Thinking about it later, I asked myself why I’d been so taken aback by Craig’s reply. I again remembered this group conversation we had had about Craig’s (and Craig’s and Scott’s) characters, and which actors did we their readers saw playing them in hypothetical screen dramatisations of the books, and Craig’s and mine choices had matched almost perfectly…
It’s time to leave you with Craig’s interview, then. I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I did, and that this feature article will spice up your curiosity and appetite for his books. Of which, by the way, a new one is being launched today (Serenity Engulfed, number five in The Shelby Alexander Thriller Series), and can be grabbed right now at the special price of £0.99/$1.39 in Amazon.
And while you are there, do not forget to pick up a box set of his first three SpyCo novels, Assignment: Adventure, for free, while the box set of books 1-4 of The Shelby Alexander Thriller Series retails for £3.53 /$4.99. The first Shelby Alexander thriller, Serenity, and the first SpyCo, Assignment: Athens, are also free, both in the UK and the US — you might want to stock up for the coming holidays, that is, of course, if you can stand to wait that long to read Craig’s books…
All right — here are, finally,
The 39 Questions
Craig, first of all, hello, and please let me welcome you to the scribbles, with a great big thank you for agreeing to participate on this new adventure of mine, and mostly for answering my very many questions as candidly and extensively as you have. I absolutely love your replies, and am particularly happy and proud of this interview, so I hope you’re just as happy as I am.
1. So, to begin with, could I ask you about your reading habits? Would you say you too are infected with the reading virus and, if so, how old were you when it first struck?
Oh, yes. I definitely have the reading virus and have since I was quite young. Some of my earliest and fondest memories were formed at the library, where I was known by the librarians as “the kid who checked out a stack of books taller than he was.” Granted, I was short for my age, but still…
2. Which is the first book you remember reading, and how old were you?
That’s difficult to say, because they kind of run together in those early memories. One book I remembering reading early–probably because I read it over and over–was Garrison’s Gorillas and the Fear Formula, which was a book related to the 1960s TV show. I’m not sure where I got it or why I loved it so much, but I treasured it. And now that I’m thinking about it, I wish I still had it!
3. How much, and what, do you read? What are your favourite genre(s)/authors/books?
I don’t read as much as I’d like, but I always have two or three books going. I read pretty widely, but I find myself gravitating most often to non-fiction. It really is an art to tell a true story in a way that reads like a novel–I’d like to try it one day.
5. How do you read? Do you read as a reader, for the pleasure and entertainment of it? Or do you read like a writer, dissecting scenes, plot, character, action, pace, language, everything…?
I try to read as a reader, because that’s a lot more fun. But I do sometimes find myself questioning what I’m reading. I dislike that, because it gets in the way of the enjoyment and it’s not something I do purposefully. I suppose after years of writing and editing, it becomes inescapable. So I try to turn that part of my brain off when I read, and if the book is decent, that can often work.
>6. I recently read a book that left me breathless and wishing I had written it myself, and feeling that nothing I will ever write can ever be as good as that. Have you ever felt like that with a book you read, and which is the book you wish you had written?
Definitely. I remember reading a biography of Vladimir Horowitz that detailed one of his Carnegie Hall performances, one that was so spectacular that students of music left the venue vowing to go home and burn their own pianos. I do sometimes feel that way, feeling that I will never write a book as good as what I just read and should just quit now. That biography is one example–it reads like novel. Another book would be In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
7. Which kinds of fictional villains do you love to hate the most? Who are your favourite fictional villain and villainess?
I enjoy villains with a story of their own, who aren’t simply evil for evil’s sake. The reason for their evilness can be twisted, of course, but it should at least make sense to the villain. My award for villain would probably go to Humbert Humbert, from Nabokov’s Lolita.
8. What about heroes, what type of hero/heroine is your favourite? Who are your favourite fictional hero and heroine, then?
Those with flaws. Those who occasionally mess up and fail. The infallible hero/heroine isn’t very compelling to me. That’s why Kryptonite came along–because the Superman creators realized it was become dull to have a hero without a weakness–no real drama in that. If I had to choose one, I suppose I’d go with Sherlock Holmes.
10. Do you tend to read more eBooks or printed ones? And what do you read the most, traditional publishing house, independent publisher, small press, self-published?
I love print. I know that’s very old-fashioned of me, but I love the feel, smell, and appearance of a printed book. I appreciate the innovation and practicality of ebooks, though. I mean, why carry one book when you can carry your entire library with you? So I’ve been forcing myself to embrace the brave new world of ebooks. And I don’t pay much attention to the publisher. If a book looks good and grabs my attention, I’ll read it.
11. What title(s) do you have on your bedside table (and on your fireside one, and your desk, and in your handbag) right now?
I have The River Swimmer by Jim Harrison, The Stranger by Albert Camus, and Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz.
12. Do you have a favourite quote about reading, and would you share it with us?
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” – Ernest Hemingway
13. Let’s talk about the “writing bug”, then. How old were you when you started writing? Did you always know you would become a writer? If not, when did you decide you’d become one?
I don’t remember exactly. I know I was writing pretty early, because I still have some little books I wrote on my mom’s typewriter. I’d fold paper to make the pages and then staple them together, and draw covers in pencil. My mom would pay me $5 for every book. I think I wrote four or five of those. They’re…hilarious, to say the least. I always sort of hoped to be a writer, but it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I began pursuing the reality of that. Until then, it was more of a “wouldn’t that be cool” idea.
14. Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated or favourite place (a desk, a study, a garden chair, maybe?) and could you describe it for us?
My ideal place is in my downstairs office, where I have all my paraphernalia and knick-knack stuff. Unfortunately, my current life as a stay-at-home dad doesn’t allow me to write there nearly as much as I’d like. So I’ve had to learn to write wherever I happen to be. For example, right now as I write this, I am sitting in a recliner in the main downstairs room watching my three-year-old twins pretend to be characters from the kids’ TV show PJ Masks.
15. Do you journal/keep a diary? What about a notebook, do you have one that you take everywhere you go? What do you write in it?
I don’t keep a journal, but I wish I did. And I used to carry a notebook around when I went places, but now I don’t go many places. And when I do, the twins are with me and I’m usually too busy making sure they don’t escape from me in a parking lot to think about plot points. When I did carry a notebook, I would write down random thoughts, snatches of conversation I overheard, ideas, anything I thought might come in handy in a book. I anticipate carrying a notebook again one day, and while I’m at it, I want to start journaling.
16. So, how do you go about constructing your book’s reality? Are you a thorough planner, before you start writing our book? Or are you a “pantser”? Perhaps even a bit of both? Does it ever happen to you that one of your characters just suddenly decides to do their own thing?
I’m mostly a pantser. I do outline, but I do it after the fact. In other words, I outline what I’ve already written. This helps me stay on track without sacrificing a lot of creative impulse, and lets me look back at a glance whenever I have a question about timeline or pacing. And, yes, occasionally there will be a rogue character who decides they know better than I do. Heck, sometimes a character will invent themselves and decided to not only insert themselves into a story, but take it over. Very rude, that, but it happens–and I have yet to hear a character apologize when it does occur.
17. How do you create your characters? Are there “real life doubles” for them? I know we sort of talked about this before, but I’m particularly curious about Shelby Alexander, the intrepid sleuth of your Serenity series, though I equally like the set of spies of your Spyco series, so… will you tell me about them all?
I don’t think I’ve ever taken a character wholesale from real life. Mostly they are composites of several people or have a grain of truth and I’ve made up the rest. Shelby is interesting in that I made him up as a reaction to the norms in thrillers today–namely the ex-Navy SEAL with six-pack abs. I wanted a different sort of character, one perhaps more people could identify with. As I’ve written more about him, he has adopted many characteristics of various people I’ve known, not to mention some of my own quirks. I like to think of him as me at that age, minus the deadly right hook and penchant for trouble–I was never a boxer and am far too lazy to run around getting into gunfights.
18. Again, we sort of talked about this (or something quite close to this) before, but for everyone else’s benefit, if there was to be a movie or two made of your books, and you were to have a say in it, who would you like to see being cast as your main characters?
I could see Tom Selleck playing Shelby. He was great as Jesse Stone, and that’s pretty close to the way I’d seem him playing Shelby as well.
19. Where do the ideas for your books come from? Is any of it based on a true event, a piece of news maybe, a film, a book or books you read? What about the Spyco series, which are I believe a collaboration with Scott Varengo — how does your collaboration work plot-wise (and characterisation-wise, and everything else-wise?)
I’ve been asked quite a bit where my ideas come from and so have had a lot of time and opportunities to think about it. But I still don’t know. Occasionally, a certain thing will spark the process–a news story, for example–but more often it’s something much smaller. Something as tiny as a raindrop can spark an idea. The other week I took my twins to my parents’ house. It was raining that day–or had just finished raining–and as we walked up to the door, I heard the water running down the spout and splashing on the flagstone. That sound immediately threw me into a story in my head about a man in solitary confinement who had no window or clock, no way to tell the passage of time. But he could hear the water dripping every time it rained, so he began using that as a reference point. As in, “He knew only that it had been two rains since he last ate.” That’s the way the ideas usually happen for me. A quick flash in the pan. I suppose it’s just the way my brain works.
With the SpyCo stuff, it’s much the same. It’s not uncommon for one of us to message the other and say something like, “Omg, listen to this…” and tell the idea. Then we’ll go back and forth a couple of times with thoughts to see if it will fit into the story, which it usually does, and then it’s off to the races. It would be very difficult to co-write with most people, I think, but we’ve been fortunate in the sense that we think very much alike and are also flexible and easygoing–at least with each other. This makes the process not only workable, but fun as well.
20. How much is there of you in your main characters? And which of them do you identify most with?
Perhaps I should be ashamed to say that I seep into most of my main characters to one extent or another. I probably identify most with the main character in my book Becoming Moon. That is a highly personal book, and semi-autobiographical (with some important exceptions). I’d tell you the character’s name, but I never name him in the book.
21. How much research did you do for either of your two series, and what kind, where, how, when? How easy, or how difficult, was it to find the info you needed?
The Shelby series is pretty easy, because it’s set in Michigan, and that’s where I grew up. I know it pretty well. I do look up specifics now and then, but it’s usually a simply process. The SpyCo series is another matter, because it takes place around the world. While I place to circle the globe at some point, I haven’t yet, so research is important. Scott and I both do research for those books, often going so far as to fire up Google Earth and virtually “walk” the routes our characters take in the story.
22. How easy or how difficult is it for you to write about your book’s themes? Do you see yourself, fr instance, ever going into some real hard and dark, or graphic stuff? (Some Scandi-style, hard-core noir, maybe?)
I’m drawn to dark themes. Neither Shelby nor SpyCo gets that dark (with some specific exceptions), because I’m writing for market with those and that’s not the audience I’ve found for them. But I do see myself exploring darker subjects in a darker style at some point.
23. Do you think the author knows everything there is to know about her/his characters and their life? How much do you know about your characters?
I don’t know about “everything.” I will say that with every new book, I learn something new about the characters. Sometimes they surprise me with a piece of their story. In Serenity Engulfed, for example, we/I discovered a piece of Shelby’s childhood that had not yet been touched on, and which has not yet been fully revealed. I can also see, though, if a writer has written, say, a thirty book series on a character(s), that they’d have to know them pretty well by that time. I feel like I’m still getting acquainted with mine.
24. Which of your fictional heroes/villains did you enjoy writing the most, and why? Are those your two favourite characters in your own fiction?
Shelby is my favorite hero to write, because he so easy. That’s not to say it’s easy to write books that he’s in, but he as a character is easy. Dialogue flows–it’s like he’s actually speaking and I’m just taking dictation. For villains–I really enjoyed writing the character of Smith in Serenity Stalked. Speaking of dark, that book has a couple of dark spots. I delve into Smith’s past a bit and take a look at why he’s the way he is. My two overall favorite characters, though, would be Shelby and Mack.
25. Is there another sequel in the works, for either series? I hope you’re telling me that there’s another Assignment sequel coming up soon, somehow restoring my very own order of things, but if not, what else is in the forge? (And why the back-flipping kitties are you not, then?!?) How far are you into writing your next title, then, and when can we expect it to hit the shelves?
Yes, there is another book for both series coming up. Serenity Engulfed is coming April 3 and Assignment: London is scheduled for May 1. I’d very much like to put out two more Assignment books this summer (in addition to London), with perhaps another Serenity late summer or early fall (but don’t hold me to that last part).
26. Of all your titles so far, which is your favourite one? Which was the one that gave you more pleasure, and the one you found the hardest to write?
Becoming Moon was by far the hardest to write, probably because it was the most personal. It’s also probably my favorite, for that very reason. Besides that one, though, I suppose the first Serenity is number one. It marked a turning point in my writing career, plus it’s a fun book.
27. For the benefit of any learning writers among us, could you describe your creative process? (how you pick an idea, develop it, draw your characters, plot the action, etc.?)
Once I have some ideas, I generally choose the one that excites me the most or the one that simply won’t leave me along (often those two are the same). Then I simply begin writing. Once I have a scene or two down, then I begin giving more thought to the future of the story and start fleshing out characters and their motivations. I try to plot action like a film, try to give it the same rhythm, and build the action throughout. A sense of timing in fiction is, I think, an art in itself. I’m not totally sure it can be taught, but it can certainly be honed. And there are even charts online you can get to see if you’re pacing according to a classic story structure. Not a bad idea, if you are a writer who struggles that that aspect. Then once you get a feel for it, you can improvise.
29. Finally, what’s your favourite quote about writing?
“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” – Hemingway
30. Here are the quintessential questions, then — first one: why do you write?
I don’t know how not to write. I do know that I’m miserable when I’m not writing, so maybe I write not to be miserable. Other than that, it is simply an inexorable pull that I feel each and every day.
31. How long have you been writing?
I don’t know exactly, but 25 years would be a close guess.
32: What was the very first thing you wrote which made you stop and look at it, and think: “wow, yes, this could be something”?
I wrote a story in my teens set in the Middle Ages. It was the best thing I’d written to that point (I read it over a few weeks ago and it’s not great) and I thought it might get accepted. I sent it out and it was rejected, but it came back with a handwritten note from the editor, which was a great sign back when people actually mailed physical manuscripts. So, even though it was disappointing to be rejected (and there were many, many more), I was still encouraged to continue.
33. So, how did you come to writing? Did you take the academic path, or is it just something you discovered you were good at, and decided to pursue?
Both, actually. I’ve taken college courses that were useful, but it was mostly my autodidactical approach that shaped my writing. This is not a reproach of formal learning, mind you, only to say that it will take you only so far in a field like creative writing.
34. What kind of thing do you prefer to write, and how did you come to choose your genre(s)?
I enjoy writing stories that examine the dark, gritty side of humanity. And I’d like to write more of that. I write thrillers now because I’ve always enjoyed the action and fun inherent in the genre. It’s what I started writing when I first tried the writing path, and now that I’ve returned to it, I find it is even more fun now than it was then. And it also has room for that dark, gritty stuff if the writer so chooses.
35. Do you write full time? What’s your usual writing routine? How long does it usually take you to produce a title, from concept to first draft, and then through revisions to publishing?
My full-time job is as a stay-at-home parent to my twins. Writing is a side gig. I usually write during their nap or after they go to bed. And on the weekends my wife often takes them off my hands so I can write. On average, I try to finish a book in three months from first draft to publishing. I don’t revise all that much, because I write pretty cleanly and often edit as I go. I know most writing coaches advise against that, but it works for me.
36. The “writing life”, as it is — is that something you recommend? Which aspects of the writer’s life do you enjoy the most (apart from writing, of course!), and which are you not so keen on?
I do not recommend it and one should only do it if they can’t do anything else. It’s a tough market, the pay is uncertain, and the odds are against success. I consider myself fortunate to have the platform that I do, because the truth is that for over twenty years, there was next to nothing in terms of recognition or interest. It takes a long time to learn the craft of writing–I’m still learning. I know there are examples of “overnight success,” but most of the time those successes were many years in the making.
37. You are what goes by the name of an “independent author”, i.e., an author who did not choose the traditional path to publication. And if you didn’t… why not? Why did you choose self-publishing, and would you do it all over again?
I’d like to preface this answer by saying that were I offered a lucrative contract by a traditional publisher, I would probably take it. Having said that, I very much enjoy doing it on my own. Going with a traditional publisher comes at a cost. You lose control of the work, in many cases, not mention the lion’s share of the profit. It’s not uncommon for publishers to pay 10-15% royalty on sales, which isn’t great when you consider the 70% that KDP (Amazon’s publishing platform) will pay. Granted, you have to sell books to make money, and that’s where most authors stumble. Seventy percent of zero is, well, zero, after all. But if you have a market, you can do just as well and even much better going it alone or with a hybrid. The downside is that there are many unscrupulous entities out there who have no issue taking advantage of authors. Always check into the history of a publisher before signing anything away. And better yet, keep your rights to yourself.
38. Traditional publishers are often perceived as the gatekeepers as far as quality of literary output is concerned, with indies and self-pub’ed authors seen as offering less literary worth, and therefore less value for money. Tell me about your take on this issue of trad vs indie publishing, gatekeeping, and quality standards and literary worth.
Traditional publishers have a stake in the failure of indies, simply because of revenue. There is are limited dollars available, after all. To be fair, however, we have to look at the history of independent publishing. It used to be largely the case that those who self-published did so because they couldn’t get a traditional contract (there were exceptions, of course). With the publishing revolution, however, that changed. Now authors can produce books on par with the quality of those put out by the traditional publishers. This does not mean that they also do, though, and that’s where the stigma remains. Independent authors have a responsibility to put out the best product they can. Just because one CAN publish, doesn’t mean one SHOULD publish.
39. Last “quintessential” question, then: I know you have just launched your own publishing company, which is great, and that you are planning a very busy summer of 2018 — but where do you see yourself as a writer, but also as the head of your own publishing business, in the long term?
I will always be first and foremost a writer. And I hope very much that I will always think of the writer’s interests in any author that I publish.
And last but by no means least, and because I’m sure everyone is just dying to know, which of these do you prefer?
Coffee, or tea? Tea
Cheesecake, or blueberry muffins? Cheesecake
Turquoise, or aqua green? Aqua green
iolets, or jonquils? Violets
Mountain, or the sea? The sea
Music, or theatre? Theatre
Cats or Dogs? Cats
Craig A. Hart’s social media & links:
Craig’s Bibliography & where to find his books for sale
(please note, active links to Amazon; the links provided by the author are to Amazon.com)
Becoming Moon, Kindle Press – 2015 – Literary Fiction; Northern Lake Publishing – 2018 – Thriller (new edition)
The Shelby Alexander Series
- Serenity, Amazon Digital Services – 2016 – Thriller
- Serenity Stalked, Sweatshoppe Publications – 2017 – Thriller
- Serenity Avenged, Amazon Digital Services – 2017 – Thriller
- Serenity Submerged, Amazon Digital Services – 2017 – Thriller
- Serenity Engulfed, Northern Lake Publishing – 2018 – Thriller
The SpyCo Series
- Assignment: Athens, Amazon Digital Services – 2017 – Thriller
- Assignment: Paris, Amazon Digital Services – 2017 – Thriller
- Assignment: Istanbul, Amazon Digital Services – 2017 – Thriller
- Assignment: Sydney, Amazon Digital Services – 2017 – Thriller
- Assignment: Alaska, Amazon Digital Services – 2017 – Thriller
- Assignment: Dublin, Amazon Digital Services – 2018 – Thriller
- The Shelby Alexander Series 1-4
- Assignment: Adventure, Books 1-3
- Assignment: Danger, Books 4-6
Finally, here’s Craig A. Hart’s new Shelby Alexander thriller, Serenity Engulfed, together with my review:
- File Size: 2680 KB
- Print Length: 190 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1986153517
- Publisher: Northern Lake Publishing (April 3, 2018)
- Publication Date: April 3, 2018
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07B4Y76HC
When Shelby’s daughter, Leslie, fails to show up at his cabin for her long-planned visit to northern Michigan, he’s concerned, but makes excuses.
When her car is found abandoned by the side of a tree-lined highway, he fears the worst.
When her cellphone appears on his front porch, he knows something terrible has happened and that he is to blame.
Enlisting the help of the new county sheriff, Shelby launches a search for Leslie, all the while dealing with a prostitute in fear for her life, a sexy writer interested in writing his life story, and the long-banished ghosts of his own past.
Familiar enemies resurface in this blazing new thriller that finds Shelby racing against time to save the most important person in his life: his own child.
Honestly, if I were Leslie, Shelby Alexander’s daughter, I would revoke paternity rights so fast Shelby wouldn’t know what hit him. Or anybody else, for that matter. Just as long as there would be some strange light, Men In Black style, and the whole world would just forget, instantly, collectively, irrevocably, that Alexander had ever been, for the flimsiest of moments, my father… Especially now, that she has a baby girl to think about. Honestly, if I were her, I would want my distance from him — as in, possibly, the Antipodeans, thank you very much.
And yes, I do know he just bursts in there practically everywhere, in a flurry of punches and bullets, together with his best mate Mack, setting the world alight until he finds and rescues her again. And I do know he, for all intents and purposes and as far as we can see, loves her dearly, and would never ever let her down again. And no, I do not think I’m being unfair on Alexander. Just think of the girl for a minute, and forget all about Alexander in Tom Selleck’s alluring skin, and the Shelby Alexander thrillers becoming something as visually and narratively satisfying, and as thoroughly aesthetically pleasing as Jesse Stone… Just put that aside for a sec, will you, and think of the poor girl…
There. Now you get exactly what I mean. Forever in the path of danger. And I’m not talking an uneven stone on the pavement. I’m talking about being kidnapped, caged, chained, shot at, manhandled, you name it. And whatever her faults, listen, she deserves so much better than becoming the currency of choice whenever any of the scum of the earth her father is so intent on cleaning from the face of Serenity, decides to have a go at exerting revenge for being hard done by by Shelby Alexander.
But anyway. Where else would we find the conflict at the source of our little instalments of simple pleasure? Because the fact is that Shelby Alexander is a cool dude, and he doesn’t give a damn about many things on this earth, and therefore to have him spring into action, and have enough to tell about, it has to be something that gets directly through his skin — and that is first and foremost his daughter. Poor, poor girl. She’s it, the permanent target, a walking bullseye for Serenity worst lowlifes. But how lucky the rest of us — because her misfortune is nothing if not our little literary fix, our shot of amusement.
This time, Hart has the infamous Ellises, the scum of what one could easily think of as otherwise near-paradisiac Serenity, back on the scene, the sociopathic Scott Ellis having been granted early release by a somewhat misguided parole board. Back on the scene are also arch-villain Darkmore, who defines himself to Leslie as her worst nightmare, and Grant Bachmann, he of Sid Bachmann descent, Shelby’s very own worst nightmare.
On Shelby’s side and apart from Mack there are still Quinn Edwards, who has now managed to sell the idea of a book on Alexander’s exploits to her publisher, a now estranged Carly pursuing her new life in New York, and a brand new Sheriff, Angela Hammer, who soon proves herself to be on the right side of Shelby’s fence, and ‘one hell of a woman’. And because good things reportedly come in threes, there’s also Katherine, a… erm… aesthetically pleasing lass right back from Shelby’s old school days — the chemistry promises, more than the dynamics with Angela, she of the growing hammer fame, who in any case is a member of the law — and, get ready for this, a cat.
Yes, ladies and gents, a cat. And what a cat! A cat that may or may not have a connection to Odawa lore and to the old Odawa man who taught Shelby most of what he knows. This, well, this promises. There’s all to look forward in the next instalment of Serenity troubles. And besides, I know Jesse Stone’s borrowed dog looked pretty much like him, only proving the old western lore that human and pet grow to resemble each other, but honestly, could you ever imagine a feline of Selleck’s quality with anything other than a cat companion…? My point, precisely. So there you go.
And then, when we think it’s all winding down towards those narratively fatidic words, The End, the cat goes and saves Shelby Alexander’s life… Craig, when’s the next instalment coming out? Can you make it pretty soon pretty please, and a wee bit longer (say, something like another 75 pages…?) Thank you.
I love the Shelby Alexander thrillers. They are simple, uncomplicated little stories that keep you entertained. To begin with, I love Shelby Alexander, the imperfect hero, the exasperating character who seems as lifelike as flesh — who, well, just like its maker I can only imagine as lifelike as Tom Selleck’s Jesse Stone — and who, apart from his propensity to being easily found by violence and misadventure, is comfortably familiar, expectedly complex, unexpectedly vulnerable… Alexander is “the hero next door”, and we can but love him.
Craig’s prose is straight forward, his plots are inventive yet simple — actually, it is Craig’s storytelling simplicity, coupled with a quiet cinematic quality of his books’ action, that is his greatest asset and the series best selling point, together with the reason why we so readily grab one of these books to keep us company during a commuter journey, or an evening by the fireplace when there’s no Jesse Stone in the box (because, well, Jesse Stone has everything Craig’s prose has, but it does have Selleck, which Craig’s unfortunately does not, not yet, and I do love my cherries).
Genre pegging: thriller
Verdict: recommended, perfect keep-me-company reading
Shelves: mystery & thrillers; “indies”