Red pen session 008 – critique of The Vertigo Shot, a novel extract by Lae Monie

The eighth red pen podcast was released on Sunday 27th November 2011 and was part of a series of episodes dedicated to reading a short story or self-contained novel extract (with synopsis) and then talking about it afterwards. I am now running these on this blog, and also have a feedback page where authors / readers can swap feedback.

I run a fortnightly critique group as well as critiquing other authors writing which I really enjoy so I thought I’d create podcast episodes doing this, and will now be running future ones on the blog, initially with the already-recorded episodes (this is the last-but-one) at 5pm daily then every Sunday evening (UK times).

Please remember that it’s only one person’s (my) opinion and you, and the author concerned, are welcome to disagree with my interpretation – I will never be mean for the sake of it, but hope you find that I’m firm but fair. I type my comments for the recording as I read through the story as a reader would think as they read the story, although they would most likely be reading, not analysing, unless they’re writers too!

Regardless of what genre you write I hope that this helps you think about the way fiction is constructed and that you have enjoyed reading another author’s work, the copyright of which remains with them, then my suggestions for any improvement.

This episode’s piece was emailed to me by crime author Lae Monie who featured as my second Author Spotlight and whose ‘More Hungry Boys’ extract was red pen session number three. It does contain some strong language.

If you have any feedback on this or aspects of my website or blog, I’m always delighted to hear from you – my email address is

And if you’re feeling brave enough to send me a short story or novel extract (with a brief synopsis please) – 3,000-words maximum – for these red pen blog sessions then feel free.

So without further ado, the story / synopsis and extract, then my feedback…


Darian has been thinking about killing for a long time. And so has his sister Consuela, a bi-polar disorder sufferer who has been self-harming since her teenage years.

On 3 November 2001, on the family country estate, the family is reunited for the wedding anniversary of their parents Cecilia and Reginald Attenwell-Smith. The reunion sets off old grudges. Granddad Barron, the founder of the family empire and Darian, a spoiled, 27-year-old, with no income of his own and many addictions, argue over money. Cecilia, a high-class lady with a string of highly publicized flings and her daughter Consuela, a 29-year-old musician, married to Tito Santorious, a record producer, with a 2 and a half year old baby, Kylie, and a dangerous mental disorder increasingly out of control, are set off by each other’s idiosyncrasies. Barron, enraged by what he regards as, ‘’the family’s despicable conduct’’, cuts off Darian’s allowance and refuses to pay off his creditors then dismisses his own son Reginald from the role of MD for lack of ‘’suitable interest’ in the company.’’ His plan is to regain control of a family that he feels is rapidly falling apart. His actions throw the family into turmoil. Reginald, terrified that his wife Cecilia is going to leave him, pleads with the patriarch. On her part, Cecilia is now frantically looking at ways to maintain her expensive lifestyle and is less interested in solving her son Darian’s money problems and finally showing her true colours. ‘’It’s time you take responsibility, Darian. I can’t bail you out every time. I cannot. I won’t. You’re becoming a liability.’’

Alone, helpless, Darian steals a silver set from the family city residence to pay for his increasing debts and expensive lifestyle. The ‘’theft’’ doesn’t sit well with Cecilia, who is concerned about Barron’s reaction if he ever finds out. She pushes her son to ‘’Get the silver back!’’ giving him an ultimatum.

Each with their demons and feeling under pressure, Darian and Consuela fuel each other’s hatred for their family members fantasizing on countless ways of killing them and then one night, only a few days after the party, Darian’s violent fantasies turn into reality during a massive row with his grandfather. Turning up unexpectedly during the murders, Consuela, her son and Darian get on the run, but after a few days, Consuela’s and her son’s bodies are discovered on the grounds of an abandoned farm. Darian also turns up. Extremely disturbed, he claims not to know anything about the events of that fateful night. The police have no reason to investigate further. A phone call from the estate made when the murders were supposed to have taken place have Barron pleading for help, ”‘Please, come quick. My niece is gone crazy and is killing us all.”

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Author Spotlight no.117 – Rick Reed

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and seventeenth, is of crime thriller author Rick Reed.

Rick Reed was a member of the Evansville Police Department and Vanderburgh County Sheriff Department for 30 years.  He worked as an investigator in the Criminal Investigations Unit from 1987 until 2003 when he was promoted from Detective to the rank of Detective Sergeant. He also served as a lead negotiator with the Hostage Negotiation Team.  He is also a handwriting expert and received his training from the U.S. Secret Service Academy in Georgia.

His last position was commander of the Internal Affairs Office.  That was what finally drove him out of police work and into an assistant professor position at Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville.

During his time in law enforcement he was lead investigator on several homicides, rapes and battery cases.

His acclaimed book, BLOOD TRAIL, is the true account of one of the homicides he investigated in 2000 that unearthed a serial killer with fourteen victims.

He retired from teaching in 2011 and moved to San Francisco, California, where he writes a serial killer-fiction series for Kensington Books.

His first fiction book, THE CRUELEST CUT, introduced detective Jack Murphy and his partner, Liddell Blanchard.

THE CRUELEST CUT has been translated into German and Polish.

The most recent release, THE COLDEST FEAR, is the second in a series of detective Jack Murphy novels and was released in September 2011. All books are available as e-books.

Reed is busy with the third book in the series, and is working on three more.

And now from the author himself:

I didn’t start out to be a writer like most authors, but I have always been a voracious reader.  In 1999, while living in a cramped apartment, working third shift as a police detective, newly divorced and trying to find ways to burn off the stress, I discovered that I enjoyed making up police stories.

Since I never expected to find an agent, much less a publisher, I started an underground police department newspaper.  It was short and crude and was written as a celebrity roast.  The celebrities were whatever unlucky police officer, or politician, I had in my sights for some mischievous—not malicious—fun. The paper was called THE MONKEY BOY GAZETTE, and there was an issue every month for ten years before my identity was discovered and unable to continue.  Before that happened though, I had a circulation of about one thousand readers, including the entire police department, city government, and local FBI.  After I was put out of the underground press business, I was told that my stories were being mailed all over the country to other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. My paper had become a collector’s item, and the victims of the stories were framing them and hanging them in their offices and homes.

In 2000 I had the distinction to be one of the law enforcement officers to ever catch a serial killer.  My guy was Joseph Weldon Brown, whom I captured in Ohio where he had fled after killing his 14th and final victim.  And that was where I got my start as a published writer.

So my first book was a true crime and was co-authored with a writer from Pennsylvania who continues to write true crime.  I didn’t enjoy writing true crime and finally convinced my editor, Michaela Hamilton, at Kensington Books, that I could write fiction.

Over the span of my almost thirty years in law enforcement, I have pretty well seen and done it all.  That’s important because I have an unlimited amount of material to bring to my fiction.  I still have some of the tapes of my interviews of suspects, victims and witnesses.  When I need a new character, I don’t have far to go.

The interviews with the serial killer gave me a lot of insight into the mind of someone that has little to no conscience.  I thought that only described my ex-wife until I met Joe Brown.  I interviewed Joe inside the Chaplains Office of Indiana’s Supermax prison, Wabash Valley Corrections.  This is the same prison where the Oklahoma City Bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was housed and executed in 2000.

During one of the marathon interviews with Joe, he suddenly lurched out of his chair, grabbed me by the throat with both hands, and yelled, “I killed her just like that!”  He didn’t hurt me, he was trying to scare me.  It worked.  But the interview continued, and he repeated his reenactment one more time before he agreed not to choke me while we were talking.

You can find more about Rick and his writing via his website He’s also on Twitter as JMurphy1010 and Facebook as Rick Reed.


The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery author James M Copeland– the four hundred and eighty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.