Monday, March 13, 2017

"Ghosts and Shadows" by H. Max Hiller

Ghosts and Shadows
(Detective "Cadillac" Holland Mystery Series Book 3)
by H. Max Hiller

Ghosts and Shadows is the third book in the Detective "Cadillac" Holland Mystery Series. Author H. Max Hiller stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. Also available: The Blue Garou (2016 Silver Medal for Mystery Fiction in the Global E-Book Awards) and Cant Stop the Funk.

The oath Detective Cooter "Cadillac" Holland swore to defend his home against foreign and domestic enemies is put to the test when evil men from both sides of the border start a war on the eve of Mardi Gras, an election, and the first Super Bowl in Saints’ history.
A shadowy operation has resurrected the blueprints for the classified operation that nearly got Detective Holland killed in Iraq, and now threatens his life again. When Detective Holland’s friends and family are also put at risk, he is forced to call upon the skills and mind-set learned as a Special Forces and Intelligence operative to keep the peace between local heroin dealers and a violent Mexican drug cartel, outsmart a defense contractor, and take on a loose-cannon Federal official out to cover the tracks of a deal gone bad to avert a bloodbath when New Orleans can least afford it.
The "Cadillac" Holland Mysteries are a compelling mix of mystery, political thriller, and guide book to one of America's favorite destinations seen through the eyes of a detective as battered as the city he patrols. Detective Holland has come home as a retired Special Forces and Intelligence operative and brings those specialized skills to bear on investigations that all too often place him squarely at odds with NOPD and the FBI's own way of doing things. It's why the Chief of Detectives only assigns "Cadillac" cases which are as unique and challenging as the detective's way of seeking justice and not just answers.

Despite my Detective rank, I am fairly new to police work. I came to my present job directly from a career in military intelligence and working with those three-letter agencies that keep to the shadows. It took surprisingly little tweaking of my skill set to go from eliminating jihadist cells in the Middle East to fighting criminals in New Orleans.
One thing that helped my transition to civilian life was that, in Katrina’s aftermath, my hometown struck me as an English-speaking version of Baghdad. Both cities were in utter chaos and patrolled by armed soldiers. Both had been devastated by my own government, one with bombs and the other with an ineffective recovery bureaucracy.  
The two cities were overwhelmed by their situations, and the locals were held to blame for every delay and obstacle to their hometowns’ recoveries. There was more discussion and planning about rebuilding than there were bricks being laid. The situation had turned Iraq into an Al Qaeda recruiting poster before I headed to New Orleans, where a combination of thugs and white-collar criminals was dragging down efforts to rebuild my hometown.
The National Guard, private security contractors, and most of the borrowed police left town as the FEMA money to pay them ran out. I am the last remaining State Police Detective assigned to NOPD’s Chief of Detectives, Bill Avery. Had I consulted Bill first, he still would have been sent me to talk to Wheeler about an arson case that might never be solved. It’s the sort of make-work case he likes giving me to conserve NOPD’s limited resources and manpower.
Among the many pieces of advice my father, NOPD’s previous Chief of Detectives, had given me in my youth was that I should never ask a question I did not already have an answer to, and that I should always be very careful in pulling on a string before I knew where both ends were attached. Ignoring his advice has proven him right time and time again.
It was difficult to look at the weed-covered lot in Hollygrove as being a loose thread, but that’s what it was. I now realized that Fire Marshal Wheeler was worried about the wrong thing entirely. The house fire itself was not the end of the thread at all. The thread I needed to follow led to not to the method but to the motive. Any investigation into this specific fire was going to lead to what the second and third fires had to do with it. The other end of the string would answer why the fire scenes were being destroyed in a fashion that gave new meaning to the phrase “scorched earth.”
I called Captain Hammond to let him know I was now working with the Fire Marshal. My second call was to Chief Avery. I offered to buy him lunch because the former college linebacker is calmer when he’s eating, but my pursuing a case with no suspects wasn’t going to help his digestion.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I have read all three of the Cooter Holland books and this one is my favourite. It is longer than the others and darker and more intense, which is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much. [...] There is plenty of action and plot twists and turns which kept me up reading most of the night. I hope that Max keeps up this storyline as dark and intense as Ghosts and Shadows in his future books." ~ Karen Hartman
"Great 3rd book in Detective Cadillac Holland series! Interesting storyline and characters - a real page turner! Don't miss this one if you like detective stories." ~ LKP Missouri
"This plot just keeps growing in intensity and complexity as the pages turn. [...] a good mystery, good action, a bit of New Orleans culture thrown in and enough believe-ability to show that the author had done some homework and knew about the material." ~ Stephen L. Brayton
"Ghosts and Shadows is the perfect title to this suspenseful yet intriguing book. I loved it. H. Max Hiller caught my attention and held it through every page. I can't wait to read more of his work. Overall, I highly recommend this novel to all." ~ Danielle Urban

Interview With the Author
Author H. Max Hiller joins me today to discuss Ghosts and Shadows, the latest book in his Detective "Cadillac" Holland Mystery Series.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
High school to senile old age. The older the audience, the more likely they are to have a frame of reference for a lot of the character backgrounds and the setting of the story.
What sparked the idea for this series?
The market is full of autobiographies of soldiers home from the War on Terror, but what we will never get to hear is what becomes of the veterans who served in highly classified capacities. They suffered as much, or more, than regular troops but have nobody to talk with and have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. I wanted to create a character who had great skills that come in handy for being a detective, but with a side to him that makes it hard for others to really trust or get close to him.
So, which comes first? The character's story of the idea for the novel?
The character's story definitely led the way in the first book, The Blue Garou. Subsequent books have been more story driven and then I try to find ways for the detective's past to help or hinder the case. I have been building to a big reveal about his past in the first two books and finally pull back most of the curtain in this third installment, but there will always be more to learn about him.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Killing people. I didn't mind killing anyone off that died, but writing it so a reader could read about murders and mayhem and still sleep at night was a challenge.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it starts a dialogue about how we treat and help all of our service veterans. There are hundreds of thousands of troops from dozens of countries that served in Iraq and Afghanistan and a slap on the back and beer in a pub really isn't what they need from us at all.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It began percolating as I was wrapping up the second book's publication in October 2015. I didn't finish a chapter until January 2016. The last chapter was finished early September, and then the editing began. I was satisfied with the last revisions in October 2016.
What is your writing routine?
The job that pays my bills involves working as a chef aboard a merchant vessel working America's inland waterways for a month at a time. I have a three hour window every afternoon for twenty eight days straight to write new material, and then twenty eight days at home with nothing to do but edit or write new chapters. It is an enviable situation for any writer, and I highly recommend it.
How did you get your book published?
I approached a number of agents and was repeatedly told that nobody wants to read anything having to do with Hurricane Katrina or veterans who aren't in some way an inspiration, which was disheartening as my central character is a disavowed intelligence operative living in New Orleans in 2010. I knew the character and stories were solid and eventually chose to self-publish. I was right that people DO care about both of those things if you approach it correctly, and I have been blessed with great reviews. The learning curve on marketing is what has hampered my distribution.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Believe in your work, above all else. Know for yourself that it is the best you have in you and then defend it like a child against those whose interests are to make it into what everyone else is publishing.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I don't read near as much as I used to now that I'm writing. I watch far too much Netflix, but I'm always looking for a well-told story in film or print. I have a front row seat to the rivers of Twain and history when I am at work, and when I am home I like to cook with my wife and spend my days with our pets.
What does your family think of your writing?
My wife has been working on the same book for years and can't find the time to finish hers, but she's massively supportive of my writing and my character. My mother-in-law is actually my high school librarian and my biggest fan.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was raised in a home where reading was greatly encouraged, but most of what I found to read was at levels well above my head. I was twelve before I moved from the cartoons to the articles in The New Yorker. My step-mother was an avid mystery reader and she was the one to get me interested in the genre. My decision to go to New Orleans to find my first job was actually based on my interest in New Orleans that came from a TV detective series.
Did you like to read when you were a child?
I loved to read as a child. It was a way to transport myself from where I was to places I knew I would never find elsewhere.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in sixth grade and won a writing competition. Girls seemed to like me more, so I was hooked.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Not the writing itself, but the process of writing most certainly. It was good to be able to disappear into a private little world from time to time.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I had the great fortune to sit down to lunch with Kurt Vonnegut and Will and Ariel Durant at a book fair in Los Angeles when I was just eighteen. Kurt gave me one great piece of advice, "Never refuse an invitation." That has opened the world to me ever since. I have drawn a lot of inspiration from the mysteries of Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, and especially James Lee Burke, as well.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Not near so much as I would like. They all love to see New Orleans through the eyes of my detective and most want me to come cook one of the meals a character named Chef Tony serves up in the books.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
The initial story arc for fully developing the characters that will be in all the future books still has two more books to go, so there is at least that much more story to be told. I will have to find another multi-book subplot to hide in the shadows of another story arc after that.
Anything else you would like to add?
Please make your friends buy their own copies!!
Thanks for stopping by today! Best of luck with the rest of the series.

About the Author
H. Max Hiller's restaurant hospitality career began with a cooking job on Bourbon Street at the age of seventeen. His resume now includes many of New Orleans' iconic dining and music destinations. Max uses a lifetime of characters and anecdotes to add depth to his Detective "Cadillac" Holland Mystery Series. He now divides his time writing between his home overlooking the Mississippi River and working as a chef aboard a boat traveling America's inland waterways.