Category Archives: crime fiction

Interview with Brian Finney, author of Money Matters

Brian Finney, author of Money Matters

Recently, I had the privilege to get an interview with a Professor Emeritus and James Tair Memorial Book Prize-winning author. Brian has written 8 nonfiction books, but our interview focused on his first NOVEL, Money Matters, a literary detective tale.


The main story of Money Matters is narrated by its protagonist Jenny, 27-years-old and a little lost in life. She is still just getting by with two part-time jobs. Asked to look into the disappearance of the CEO’s girlfriend, Jenny reluctantly turns amateur detective and soon finds herself up against a range of powerful and sinister forces, including big money, a corrupt politician, and a Mexican drug cartel.

So the novel is part (late) coming-of-age, part amateur sleuth, part social issues. Immigration, one such issue, permeates both the main plot and subplot featuring an undocumented young Mexican-American. Jenny’s search leads to her meeting the young, handsome director of an immigrants’ rights organization to whom she is strongly attracted. So the novel has elements of romance(as well!).

Money Matters

In our interview we learn more about Brian, his work, and interests.


– Can you share a little of your current work with us? (short synopsis)

Money Matters is my debut suspense novel that combines a number of genres. Its narrator and major character is Jenny, a 27-year-old woman who hasn’t got her life together. She still lives in her sister Tricia’s Venice apartment and survives on two minimal paying part-time jobs – one doing plant maintenance for Todd, the CEO of a mutual fund company, the other for a large detective agency replaying surveillance tapes.

She is persuaded to investigate the disappearance of Todd’s girlfriend by his Mexican-American housekeeper. Her amateur detective work soon brings her up against the interests of big money, politics (the novel is set during the 2010 mid-term election), and a Mexican drug cartel. 

It also brings into her life the attractive director of an immigrant rights organization. The reader is left unsure to the end whether she will overcome the powerful and dangerous forces opposed to her search for the truth.

– What inspired you to write your first book?

I spent much of my adult life teaching university students how to read and analyze works of fiction. When I retired I felt free at last to write a work of fiction myself. Also, the novel raises questions about immigration, and I emigrated from England over thirty years ago; so I felt a natural bond to my immigrant characters and their difficulties.

– Do you have a specific writing style?

I have written seven nonfiction books (including an award-winning biography of Christopher Isherwood) and in all of them I have tried to develop as colloquial style as the genre allowed. Once I turned to fiction I had unlimited use of colloquial language and developed the voice of my female protagonist to exploit this stylistic trait.

– How did you come up with the title?

Waking up one night it came to me. Its ambiguous meaning encapsulates so economically Jenny’s fight against the monetary society she is a part of which accounts for her lack of money, and the realization that you can’t ignore the role and power of money today. Her endless fights with her wealthy sister give this dual theme dramatic substance.

– What book are you reading now?

Currently, I am on vacation and reading travel literature pertinent to places I am visiting. Just before that, I read Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte, an update of Cervantes Don Quixote set in contemporary America. It’s a wonderful hodgepodge of buffoonery, literary parody, social satire, and much more. I have written a long review of it for the Los Angeles Review of Books that will be published in late October.

– Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?

I loved Laila Lalami‘s The Other Americans, a novel that, like mine, focuses on immigrants’ experience, though her focus is almost exclusively on an immigrant community. The novel is short-listed for a National Book Award.

– As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Early on I wanted to be a train driver as I was under the influence of an elder brother obsessed by railways who eventually did become a train driver. I soon grew out of that obsession once my brother left home.

– Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I find I can write with ease, which doesn’t mean I don’t then have to do a lot of deleting and revising. With this novel, my biggest challenge was stopping myself from weighting the scales in favor of Jenny whose views I largely share. I had to spend much time and effort making Tricia’s arguments as convincing as Jenny’s. I hope I succeeded, as conflict is at the essence of narrative.

– Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

This book was set in Los Angeles where I live. But writing my biography of Christopher Isherwood brought me to Southern California to interview him and his friends, and that in turn led to my immigrating there.

-Who designed your covers?

Carl Graves at Extended Imagery, a talented book cover designer, as you can see from the cover of my novel.


Money Matters, which is a Finalist in the American Fiction Awards, is now published as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook. It is available from Amazon:

I also have a website with details of all my books and other publications:

Thanks very much to Brian, and his excellent PR team for getting us in touch. IF you want an interview on Writer Groupie, or a podcast segment, just let us know by leaving a contact form!

WGP Episode 63: Rich Zahradnik, mystery

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Rich Zahradnik is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Coleridge Taylor Mystery series from Camel Press. Last Words is the first novel in the series and was published October 2014. Drop Dead Punk came out August 2015.

Drop Dead Punk won the gold medal for mystery/thriller ebook in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs). It was also named a finalist in the mystery category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Last Words won honorable mention for mystery in Foreword Reviews’ IndieFab Book of the Year Awards and the bronze medal for mystery/thriller ebook in the 2015 IPPYs.

Zahradnik was a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, Fox Business Network, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter, often writing news stories and analysis about the journalism business, broadcasting, film production, publishing and the online industry.

In January 2012, he was one of 20 writers selected for the inaugural class of the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by New York’s Center for Fiction.

He has been a media entrepreneur throughout his career. He was founding executive producer of, a leading financial news website and a Webby winner; managing editor of, and a partner in the soccer-news website company Goal Networks. Zahradnik also co-founded the weekly newspaper The Peekskill Herald at the age of 25, leading it to seven state press association awards in its first three years.

Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri and son Patrick in Pelham, New York, where he writes fiction and teaches elementary school kids how to publish the online and print newspaper the Colonial Times.

To get any of Rich’s books simply click the cover!




In this episode we learn:

Show Notes

WGP Episode 60 Robert Smith, Thrillers

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Robert Smith writes thrillers. Sometimes as TyCobbsTeeth (pen name) and he tells us how that pen name came to be in the podcast. Areas of the thriller genre that interest him are: Psychological; Suspense; Horror; and Crime/Detective. He’s from Prince Edward Island, just off Canada’s east coast, where the ocean winds drive the cold waves of the north Atlantic hard against the island’s red cliffs. More recently he is from Ottawa, and the US East coast.
robert smith
Be sure to have a listen to Robert’s interview by clicking on the podcast player below. We discuss his work, including, Breakfast is Severed, Society for Supper, and What Lies Within which is coming soon.

You can get these works by Mr. Smith by clicking on the covers.

In this episode, we learn about:

Show Notes

  • Robert Smith’s journey into writing thrillers and how visual arts has played a part in that
  • How Stephen King influenced his writing
  • What led him to write his first short story, Breakfast is Severed (a tagline did it!)and a little about the sequel Society for Supper
  • Discussion about ideas and how they can disrupt your life
  • Insider info about Robert’s pen name and how it came to be and how Sotheby’s Auctions played a part
  • Details about how writing under a pseudonym can be problematic
  • A look into the new work, What Lies Within, and what he is going to do with it
  • His new agent (Debbie Lyon) works for Media Bitch Literarybased in the UK but has agents in the US and Canada.

AND SO MUCH MORE including his best advice for aspiring authors!

One of the books we discussed was his favorite Stephen King story. You can get IT here by clicking on the cover:


You can find him online at his Facebook page Robert Smith, Thrillers and on Twitter @tycobbsteeth

Thanks for Listening to WGP (Writer Groupie Podcast)!
We appreciate your time!

Did you enjoy this episode with Robert Smith?

If so, please do one (or all) of the following:

Leave a comment on this page or ask a question if you need us to elaborate on the topic.
Use the social media buttons to share this episode with your friends, family, and contacts.
Go over to iTunes or YouTube to leave a rating/review and to subscribe to the podcast.
We appreciate you taking the time to check out WGP! And we look forward to providing you with more content in the next episode!

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WGP Episode 54 – JD Rhoades, hardboiled mystery author

Born and raised in North Carolina, J.D. Rhoades has worked as a radio
news reporter, club DJ, television cameraman, ad salesman, waiter,
attorney, and newspaper columnist. His weekly column in North Carolina’s
The Pilot was twice named best column of the year in its division.
Author of The Devil’s Right Hand, Good Day in Hell, Safe and Sound,
Breaking Cover, and Broken Shield, he lives, writes, and practices law
in North Carolina.


There is a lot more info about JD Rhoades and his books at his Amazon page also, at:

In this episode, we learn about:

Show Notes

  • JD’s writing life and how he broke into the trad pub market (St. Martin’s-Minotaur) and subsequently went hybrid
  • Information about his covers which truly do brand his genre and books
  • We talk a bit about Jason Pinter and Polis Books
  • Insider info on the hardboiled PI genre and how it appealed to JD
  • The explanation of redneck-noir and how it came to be and how Ice Chest was a departure from his norm in genre/book
  • Insight into his southernistic point of view (JD is a North Carolina man) sometimes encouraged by what he reads
  • Details about the writing of Good Day in Hell and how he makes the setting and character step off the page
  • Info about what JD thinks will happen in the industry as we go along based on the changes that have already occurred (ie. Joe Konrath and how he has led the way for indies)
  • His opinion about how indies need to make their work indistinguishable from trad pub books
  • How Polis Books took publishing in a new direction by giving authors like JD a new opportunity and how social media became a part of it
  • Insider details: JD offers a few new authors to try that are with Polis YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS!
  • Virtual reality, Oculus Rift, and JD Rhoades (totally funny)
  • Insight: If JD went wide, or stayed exclusive with Kindle and his opinion about both
  • AND SO MUCH MORE including his best advice for aspiring authors!!!


    The latest Jack Keller novel:


    You can find him online at his website and on Twitter @JD_Rhoades

    Thanks for Listening to WGP (Writer Groupie Podcast)!
    We appreciate your time!

    Did you enjoy this episode with JD Rhoades?

    If so, please do one (or all) of the following:

    Leave a comment on this page or ask a question if you need us to elaborate on the topic.
    Use the social media buttons to share this episode with your friends, family, and contacts.
    Go over to iTunes or YouTube to leave a rating/review and to subscribe to the podcast.
    We appreciate you taking the time to check out WGP! And we look forward to providing you with more content in the next episode!

    Subscribe to Writer Groupie Podcast on iTunes and YouTube by clicking on the images below:



    Interview with Magnus Stanke, author

    Welcome Magnus! What made you want to write a novel?

    I never thought I’d write a novel. Love songs and film criticism, yes, even screenplays, but a novel – never. There just wasn’t enough time in the day, what with the teaching, the shiatsu, life in Spain, not to mention the reading, the travelling, the film-watching…

    And then I started ‘Falling in Death and Love’ and everything changed. Now I can’t stop, am already busy writing the next one and contemplating the one after that.

    Still, it’d nice if the days were a bit longer. Just saying

    Tell us WHO IS Magnus Stanke?

    I am a German national but I live in Spain and I write in English. Much to my own surprise I have just completed and published my first novel – the reason I’m surprised is that I had stopped writing about ten years ago (at the time I was doing screen plays and film criticism), and to be honest I never thought I’d ever write a novel. Until I actually started last year (well, in 2014), and now I can’t stop.

    This book sounds great, tell us about it.

    I’m currently working on the second book of my Retro-Thriller cycle. The first one, ‘Falling in Death and Love’ is set in 1977 on the Spanish island of Mallorca – I suppose it’s comparable for Americans with Cancun in Mexico, except that the latter is not an island.

    Anyway, Spain’s long term dictator General Franco had just died a couple of years earlier and the country was in transition from dictatorship to democracy. Some old conservative powers were still at work and obviously none too impressed with these changes, this opening up to a new reality while the Spanish people were initially still afraid that the clock be turned backwards.

    Mallorca was already a very popular holiday destination for Europeans and tried to present a different, modern picture of Spain to the tourists who brought their highly desirable hard currency to the country.
    My story then has this as a backdrop, not exactly a free-for-all kinda place, but a disorienting time with much positive potential; however the protagonist can never be sure who to trust or where to turn for help – he is being chased by a combination of hitmen and the police.

    The book I’m writing now is set in Germany in the Cold War. The story begins in the late seventies and ends in the early nineties and in a way it’s the opposite to the first one. Here everything is grey and cold…

    What style of writing do you adopt?

    I try to keep it light and fast-moving from the first line. My favourite crime authors are all Americans, the hard-boiled school. While I wouldn’t claim to be able to write like Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson or Elmore Leonard I’d say it’s pretty obvious that they influenced, nay – informed my style (I’m glad I don’t have to look anybody in the eye whilst making such self-aggrandising statements; I blush even as I think these words)

    What do you find challenging about the writing life?

    Time. The fact that I have at best two hours per day to spend writing after my bread-and-butter job.
    If you could write from any place on earth, where would you choose to write from?
    Somewhere (even) warmer than Spain; maybe Thailand or the Caribbean

    When asked to set goals, what do you see( for yourself or current WIP) in five years with your writing?

    In a utopia, in five years time I’d like to write full-time, live in a warmer place, have finished the Retro-Thriller trilogy and started on my Time Travel trilogy

    What are you reading right now?

    Gone for Good by Harlan Coben, Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith, El pez en el agua by Mario Vargas Llosa and John Gilbert, the last of the Silent Stars by Eve Golden

    Who is your favorite author?

    Varies by season, but generally I mention Haruki Murakami, Vargas Llosa and a lot of hard-boiled authors

    Give a bit of advice for an aspiring author.

    Well, you have to find your own writing rhythm, of course. What helps me is to start is a detailed outline of the story, chapter by chapter. And then keep at it – inspiration: 10%, perspiration: 90%

    You can find Magnus Stanke and his book at these sites:

    This is a US-friendly link to the book on Amazon: Falling in Death and Love

    Magnus Stanke’s Facebook page

    Follow him on Twitter @MagnusStanke