Friday, November 27, 2015

"Dead Letter File" by George T. Chronis

Dead Letter File
by George T. Chronis

Dead Letter File is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a giveaway and my interview with author George T. Chronis. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

The second novel from Sudetenland author George T. Chronis is a fast-paced detective thriller. The place is Los Angeles, the time is just after World War II during the early days of the Cold War, and people are turning up dead on the streets of Hollywood. A smuggled Nazi ceremonial weapon is hidden somewhere in the city and several factions have no compulsion against killing to possess this objet d’art that conceals a valuable secret. Suspicion falls upon Tom Jarrett, a man with many secrets of his own from the war, who is forced to put his new life on hold so that he can unravel the mystery… if only he can stay alive long enough.

Excerpt from Chapter 4
The fog was lifting... not all at once but in small, scattered sections. Jarrett tried opening his eyes but was rewarded with pulsating colors in various shapes and dimensions. He closed his eyelids tightly and breathed in. The air tasted old and dusty like a moribund attic. The possibility crossed Jarrett's mind that he might be hallucinating. There was only one way to find out for sure. Jarrett forced his eyes open a second time and waited for the pulsations to even out and his vision to focus. A light bulb was hanging on a wire from the ceiling above him. The Monarch was too new to sport one of these original electrical installations. That and the stale air told Jarrett he was someplace else, the question was where? As soon as he attempted to prop his arms behind him, Jarrett regretted the effort.
"Don't move," Lydia hurried over holding a bowl of water with a small cloth draped over the lip. "You are going to--"
A bolt of pain coursed along the back of Jarrett's neck, stopping his upward progress cold. "--Ouch."
"You should learn to listen," Lydia crouched close to him, dampened the cloth and applied it to the sore area.
"Yeah, I will work on that," Jarrett looked up slowly but did not dare attempt turning his neck to look at her. "Did you see the truck that ran me down?"
"Big, ugly and not too friendly," Lydia continued dabbing his neck. When she worked the cloth under shirt collar the back of her fingers rubbed up against something bulky hidden inside the jacket. "What do you have back here?"
"A little insurance policy," Jarrett felt steady enough to reach back with one arm to pat her hand and gently pull it away from the hidden knife.
"Like I said, I appreciate a man who comes prepared," Lydia leaned back to gauge his progress.
"Didn't stop me from sticking my neck out," Jarrett looked around the dark room. His sense of smell had been reliable. The windows were frosted with age, dust and grime – blocking out much of the afternoon daylight. Of more interest, he could make out bars over the windows. There were three more bulbs hanging from electrical wires running in a line down the center of the ceiling. By the scuffs etched onto the old wood planks of the floor, it looked like they were what must have been a storeroom. "Any idea where we are?"
"Someplace none too prosperous east of downtown. They made so many turns it was hard to keep track where we ended up," Lydia was glad nothing was busted permanently on the guy and he had his wits about him.
"How long have I been out?" Jarrett felt good enough to sit up straight.
"All day," Lydia put the bowl down on the floor.
"Thought so," Jarrett massaged the back of his neck. "Our hosts provide the water there?"
"Yep... after we were thrown in here the mugs got extra concerned about your well being." Under different circumstances, Lydia would be a little peeved she was not the primary object of attention.
"How considerate of them. That probably means they have a little conversation planned for me," Tom shifted his body so he could see the one door leading into the room. "I imagine the door is locked."
"Nice and tight. The windows back there are nailed shut too," Lydia had even tested the window glass with her shoe but it was thick enough not to break.
"Looks like we are not going anywhere," Jarrett did not see many options available to them.
"How are you feeling?" Lydia reached out grip his upper arm.
"Good enough to wonder why I take risks saving pretty little numbers like you," Jarrett attempted getting his feet under him to stand up.
"You must be feeling better if you are throwing out compliments," Lydia took her hand back.
A wave of dizziness overcame Jarrett as he stood. Losing his equilibrium, he teetered precariously a few moments before toppling forward.
"Ah hell," Lydia rushed forward to catch the big lug. Wrapping her arms around him, she held Jarrett upright while trying to figure out what to do with him.
Jarrett regained his composure sufficiently to realize his predicament and put his arms around her waist to help steady himself.
"Thanks," Jarrett became aware their chests were pressed together. "Do you make house calls?"
"Only for special clients," Lydia considered letting the clown drop to the floor when she heard the bolt lock unlatch behind them followed by the door flying open. The man that Jarrett had knocked unconscious back at the Monarch stepped into the room, a bandage applied around his wounded temple. Following behind him was a taller compatriot with a deep scar cut along his cheek.
"Well, ain't we cozy," the assailant from the hotel room appraised his catch.

Praise for the Book
"This book was really fun and exciting to read and it would be great as a movie ... I am a fan of Film Noir and I grew up in greater Los Angeles, so I really appreciated the very realistic portrayal of this exciting mystery placed in that setting. The characters were realistic and full of unexpected backgrounds that enriched the plot. I recommend this to anyone and everyone." ~ Katherine Charlton Calkins
"Dead Letter File is loaded with twists and turns that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next. Mr. Chronis has provided us with a fairly exciting book and well worth the read." ~ VicG
"The characters and the location come together for a terrific read. While the story takes place post WW2, much of it seems so relevant to current times, that aside from the slightly slang 'speak’ that we no longer use, it could be happening today. It makes the book one you will enjoy even if you don’t usually read period suspense. I definitely recommend you read the book. I’m already looking forward to the next." ~ Merrci
"Chronis did not disappoint me with Dead Letter File. This book was action packed and a quick and enjoyable read. The descriptive nature of this narrative made me feel like I was right in the middle of things. The character development was impressive and the plot twists were unexpected and entertaining. I would absolutely recommend this book to readers of all levels." ~ Amazon Customer
"Dead Letter File engages the reader immediately with suspense and intrigue. I had trouble putting it down, even though I had other things I really needed to get done. It reads like you are watching a true Film Noir with beautifully descriptive imagery and colorful characters. Maybe there is a film adaptation in its future?" ~ Marc Conkle

Interview with the Author
Hi George, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Dead Letter File.
My pleasure, thank you for having me.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
There are plenty of suspenseful situations but no gratuitous violence, so anyone from teen and up works.
What sparked the idea for this book?
Years ago I came across a magazine article about the allied intelligence teams that fanned out over captured Germany territory looking for hidden research and development centers at the end of World War II. Think the Monuments Men but with secret high technology. That seemed like a great plot hook to me and I filed the article away for future reference. When I decided I wanted to write a 1940s detective thriller, I went back to that kernel and built a story around it.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
Me, I am old-fashioned and enjoy working with external threat, so the overall story concept comes first. The characters develop fairly swiftly after that as I work through who has to live and breathe in the plot. I also enjoy watching characters grow over time on the page as they are dealing with whatever challenges I am subjecting them to. This format also allows me a lot of freedom to adapt when I invariably fall in love with certain characters and decide they need more things to do, or take on a different role than I originally envisioned. Front-loading too much into the character early on restricts what I can do later if I decide to make changes.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Dead Letter File actually came together without any struggles. Everything in the book was very close to home. I wanted to throw a kiss to the Los Angeles that was still around when I was a kid but is mostly bulldozed under now. Then there were the stories my father told me about what it was like in the late '40s. The biggest issue was going back and fact checking to make sure I had not made any mistakes. The story is very compact compared to my first novel, Sudetenland, so the process of laying it all down was fairly straightforward.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
If they come away enjoying the story and experiencing Los Angeles of a different era, that's all I can ask for.
How long did it take you to write this book?
The rough character development, dialogue and plot took three months. The second pass where I smoothed out all of the rough edges and expanded the material took another six months.
What is your writing routine?
Devoting three to four afternoons a week is what mixes well with my other responsibilities. Research reading I fit in during the evenings.
How did you get your book published?
As a debut author the traditional publishing industry is not interested in the stories that I wanted to tell. Thankfully, the self-publishing options available today are wonderfully rich. Having been a magazine reporter and editor since the mid-1980s, taking on the role of publisher was something pretty close to my career experience. The biggest challenge is managing my own marketing and trying to be effective at connecting with people. But even major publishers drop that role on authors these days, so that is not unique.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
No matter how you get published, follow your heart and write the story you want to tell. The best advice is that there is no singular way to write a novel, or skill set to get there. People can argue about whether internal threat or external threat is more compelling, of whether more dialogue or less dialogue is appropriate, or whether prose is written for the sake of grammatical flourish or driving the narrative – these are all personal tastes. Yet everyone appreciates reading a good story. So if you have a good story to tell, write it, the rest will attend to itself.
Great advice, George. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
That is pretty much time I owe my dear wife, so whatever schemes she has been plotting for us.
Great answer! What does your family think of your writing?
Fairly positive so far. My wife is Chinese-American, and in Asian cultures, writers are very well regarded. So she has been very supportive and is very proud that her husband is a writer. The kids are also supportive, but I don't think they will be truly excited unless something sells a million copies. Their peers just don't read books so there is not the interest. Now, the fact that I covered the video game industry for years as an editor is much more intriguing to them.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
No severe hardships or emotional traumas to report. We were a middle class family so, while I did not get everything I wanted, as an only child I did pretty well. Not having siblings orients a kid towards interacting with adults, which means I got interested in a lot of ideas and topics earlier than my contemporaries in school. I definitely watched too much television, but that's where I developed my love for films from the 1930s and 1940s. But like other kids I liked walking down to the local theater during summer to watch the latest Bond movie, or ride my bike to the Farmer's Market to check out what new magazines were on the rack at the bookstore and buy some candy.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Oh yeah, books on history, magazines with great yarns of the sea or air, and the daily newspaper after my folks got done with it. My uncle would bring me his Playboy issues after he was done with them and we had this surreptitious dead drop process worked out when he came over so my mom would not find out. After about a year it got hard to hide them and she put an end to that arrangement. We were right in the middle of Los Angeles, and there was my fair share of playing with other kids on the block, but there were not playgrounds or parks close by. Reading was a great avenue to keep me occupied.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
For fiction it was way back in grad school. It was my first semester in film school at a private university and I was adding up the costs necessary to produce a thesis film and realized the investment necessary was out of my league without resorting to serious borrowing. My roommate was in the screenwriting side of the program and suggested I give it a look. The grizzled old gentleman running the writing program was a colorful Hollywood veteran and we took to each other straight away. As I already had a typewriter and paper, and no further investment was required, I made the jump. As the stories I wanted to tell were all period pieces and he had not seen that often in his other students, I was something of a welcome oddity. He got a kick out of me wanting to write material based in the 1930s and encouraged the hell out of me. I owe that man a lot because he helped me see I could succeed as a storyteller.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Most definitely in the topics and eras that interest me, as well as the people and experiences one gets by growing up in a major city.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
When I do it is usually that I approached an era or genre differently than they are used to and they really enjoyed experiencing something new. The men and women in my novels tend to banter with each other quite a bit for both tension and comic relief, and readers say they enjoy that too.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Next up is the sequel to Sudetenland. My plan is to have it done in a year but I am still going through research material, which always happens. Just when I think I have nailed all the sources I need to, a new (to me) tome with great observations or atmosphere pops up and it becomes difficult to break away and charge ahead on the writing.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, George. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thanks for having me, Lynda.

About the Author
After years as a journalist and magazine editor, George T. Chronis decided to return to his lifelong passion, storytelling. A lover of both 1930s cinema and world history, Chronis is now devoted to bringing life to the mid-20th Century fictional narratives that have been in his thoughts for years. Dead Letter File is his second novel. Chronis has also written Sudetenland, a historical fiction thriller set against the international crisis between Germany and Czechoslovakia during 1938. The author is already hard at work on a sequel. Chronis is married with two daughters, and lives with his wife in a Southern California mountain community.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of two $20 Amazon gift cards.