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Why I wrote DELIVER US

I often have readers email to ask how certain books came about. It's an understandable question. I mean, just peruse your daily newspaper. I write about crime cases, real ones, usually murders. Sadly, newspapers across the U.S., actually, I suspect, around the world, are filled with possible subjects. Some, like the Jodi Arias or Casey Anthony cases, make news for months, even years. Others come and go, generating little more than a paragraph or two in the city section. No matter how much attention each attracts, they all have stories behind them, people involved, events that led to the killings, investigations that may or may not have led to killers.

So why write a book on the I-45/Texas Killing Fields? Why now?

For those of you who aren't familiar with the cases, the truth is that they've haunted me since soon after I landed in Houston, back in the eighties. Over the years, I've seen the articles in the Houston Chronicle, teenage girls abducted and missing on or near I-45. In the nineties, the Chronicle and the Galveston County Daily News both started running charts, showing the girls' photos.

From that point on, I knew one day I would have to write about the cases. I couldn't forget the girls. They lived in the back of my mind. As I wrote book after book, I always knew eventually I'd have to do my best to find out who the girls were, how they'd disappeared, and why their murders remained unsolved. I confess that it became something of a compulsion.

"But why now?" you ask. Some of these cases are more than forty years old. Why do they deserve attention at this point in time?

Why not now?

Ironically, I began my research at a time when some of the cases first started to come together. One actually led to a trial. While I worked on DELIVER US, I discovered that although they'd never entered a courtroom charged with any of the girls' murderers, there were suspects. So I did what I always do in my books; I gave the folks believed to have committed the murders the opportunity to talk. I went inside Texas prisons and sat down with men who described themselves as vicious serial killers. And I listened as they told me how and why they murdered their victims.

It was terrifying.

DELIVER US took me three solid years to research and write. I investigated eighteen murder cases. Attended two trials. Interviewed three inmates behind prison walls.

The result, I admit, is a troubling book. It's an unflinching look inside a tragedy, the continuing murders of teenage girls just outside America's fourth largest city. This isn't happening in isolation, but along one of the nation's busiest highways.

I looked at this phenomenon from all sides: survivors, victims' families, investigators, and the alleged killers. And in the end, this book changed me in ways I couldn't have predicted.

I hope you'll read the prologue to DELIVER US, now available by clicking the link under excerpts in the left-hand column of this Website. And if you like the sample, that you'll read the book.

Why? These are important cases, exposing evil at its core. And the girls deserve to be remembered.  Read More 
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I wish you'd been there!

Well, it's that time of year again. I've just returned home from three glorious days in the small town of Jefferson, Texas, ground zero for the Pulpwood Queens. The event: the annual extravaganza,Girlfriend Weekend. I stayed at the beautiful Alley-McKay house, and I had a blast.

It all started Thursday evening, with a dinner where the authors, including moi, waited on the PQs who gathered at the Jefferson Convention Center. The amazing Kathy L. Patrick, founder of this mushrooming book club (400 chapters and growing), fed the authors first, then we each claimed a table. I served dinner to the fine ladies from Southwest Louisiana's chapter. Wonderful women with ready smiles and good hearts who put up with my well-meaning if rather inept attempts at serving sweet and unsweetened tea, a barbecue dinner followed by yummy bread pudding. There were free autographed books and everyone went to their hotel or B&B with a smile.

On Friday, we were all back early, and the weekend kicked into gear with Kathy and her co host, the superb Robert Leleux (author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy) front and center. For the next two days, they moderated the panels, asking questions and keeping us all laughing. That morning, Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama) was the keynote speaker, and he was so funny. I loved the reading from his new book, Georgia Bottoms. Lucky for all of us he gave everyone copies.

I won't attempt to list all the authors who spoke on Friday. There are simply too many, but here are a few: Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand), Judy Christie (Goodness Gracious Green), Denise Hildreth Jones (Hurricane in Paradise), Janis Owens (Cracker Kitchen), Kathy Appelt (Keeper) and Melissa Conroy (Poppy's Pants). If I'm counting right, there were about 20 discussing their work and their lives on the stage that first day.

The talent show that night was great fun. So many imaginative acts. I heard Nashville's Marshall Chapman sing and play her guitar for the first time and loved it so much I sprung for a CD. Marshall also has a new book out: They Came to Nashville.

The following morning, Saturday, the great Fannie Flagg began the day with a rousing talk about dyslexia, writing, and the surprises live brings. She was charming and heart-warming, detailing the process that began imagining the ghosts that inhabited her family's dilapidated and abandoned homestead and ended in a beloved book: "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe."

Two more panels, including mine, followed her. Wouldn't you know that Kathy would name my panel "Stories that are Killer?" On the stage, I was a bit nervous. (There were lots of folks there. At least 300, my guess.) But BobKat(Robert and Kathy) put us all at ease, giving us the opportunity to discuss our books and answer questions. I read a short passage from THE KILLING STORM, the Pulpwood Queens' main selection for July 2010.

It turned out that my panel was the opening act for the inimitable Pat Conroy Read More 
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The credit goes to all of you!

This is a thank you letter of sorts. If I knew all your names, I'd personalize one to each and everyone of you. But I don't, so please forgive me for not being able to do that.

As many of you know, my latest true crime book, SHATTERED, debuted on June 29th. You can look it up here on my Web site by clicking on the title in the left hand column. It's on the Houston murder of Belinda Lucas Temple, and it's a fascinating case, an investigation that took eight years and one of the most amazing trials I've covered. I can't overstate the number of twists and turns this case took over nearly a decade.

The reason I'm saying thank you is that the book is doing remarkably well. It was in the top ten on Amazon's bestselling true crime list for more than a month before it came out. Since its release, SHATTERED has consistently had two places on the top ten, one for the paperback and another for the Kindle edition. For its first two weeks and counting, it's been high on Amazon's bestselling nonfiction summer reading list. Truly wonderful.

And who do I have to thank? All of you, the folks who read the books, and especially those who read them and then make a point to recommend my books to others. So again, thank you! Keep up the good work! It's sincerely appreciated.  Read More 
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A Weekend with the Pulpwood Queens!

We all know this. It isn't news, but I'm going to spit it out: There are some pretty special people in the world. Now, you ask, how do I define "special?" Those who are able to spread enthusiasm, to get the rest of us up off our keesters (as my grandma used to say). Those who inspire us to live better lives and to help others.

One of those people is Kathy L. Patrick, founder of the Tiara wearing, book-reading Pulpwood Queens.

Yup, you got it right; I did put Tiara wearing and book reading in the same sentence. So does Kathy. She founded the club in her Jefferson, TX, beauty salon/bookstore ten years ago, and it's going strong. Last time I asked, she had something like 220 chapters and counting. Each month Kathy picks a book and an alternate for the Queens, and they read their pick then get together to discuss it.

It's true that Kathy picked my second novel, BLOOD LINES, as last November's main read, but, honestly, that's not why I'm writing this post. It's because of all Kathy does. In addition to the book clubs, she's active in a long list of other projects and still finds time to volunteer teaching literacy at a shelter. More amazing is how she influences others to become involved in good work. For instance, the Southwest Louisiana PQs raise money and supplies for a South American orphanage, and the Alaska bunch has an outreach program in a women's prison.

In fact, Kathy's so persuasive, she's inspired me to start working on a project. It's not at a point where I can talk about it yet, but when it comes together. I'll tell all of you about it.

So, you women (sorry, guys, but the club is for gals), if you have a group of friends, or if you'd like to make new friends, if you love good books and having fun, start your own Pulpwood Queen chapter. Kathy's link is on the right hand column of every page on my Web site, so it's easy to get in touch. Then get ready to be inspired!

One last note: Make sure you come to Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson next year. Oh, my goodness, such a party. Authors from all over the country will be there, maybe dressed up like this past January as the Wizard of Oz or a munchkin. It's a blast! Read More 
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