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Pay or Play by Howard Michael Gould Banner

Pay or Play

by Howard Michael Gould

January 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Pay or Play by Howard Michael Gould

Blackmail, sexual harassment, murder . . .
and a missing dog: eccentric, eco-obsessed LA private eye Charlie Waldo is on the case in this quirky, fast-paced mystery.

Paying a harsh self-imposed penance for a terrible misstep on a case, former LAPD superstar detective Charlie Waldo lives a life of punishing minimalism deep within the woods, making a near religion of his commitment to owning no more than One Hundred Things.

At least, he’s trying to. His PI girlfriend Lorena keeps drawing him back to civilization – even though every time he compromises on his principles, something goes wrong.

And unfortunately for Waldo, all roads lead straight back to LA. When old adversary Don Q strongarms him into investigating the seemingly mundane death of a vagrant, Lorena agrees he can work under her PI license on one condition: he help with a high-maintenance celebrity client, wildly popular courtroom TV star Judge Ida Mudge, whose new mega-deal makes her a perfect target for blackmail.

Reopening the coldest of cases, a decades-old fraternity death, Waldo begins to wonder if the judge is, in fact, a murderer – and if he’ll stay alive long enough to find out.

Pay or Play is the third in the Charlie Waldo series, following Last Looks and Below the Line. Last Looks was turned into a major motion picture, starring Charlie Hunnam as the offbeat private investigator.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Private Detective
Published by: Severn House Publishers Limited
Publication Date: December 7th 2021
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 0727850857 (ISBN13: 9780727850850)
Series: Charlie Waldo, #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


It wasn’t the sex that set Waldo’s woods on fire, it was the afterglow.

Surrounded by forest, nearly all its structures made of wood, his mountain town of Idyllwild had already seen five homes destroyed, the remainder evacuated. Route 243 was closed on both sides, leaving Waldo and all the other residents cut off and fearing the worst. As the record temperatures of summer 2018 scorched California, infernos blossomed up and down the state. Six people were dead in the one up north, the one called the Carr.

Watching clips of his wildfire, the Cranston, from a hundred miles away and the safety of Lorena’s house, Waldo knew it would take a miracle to keep the rest of Idyllwild from being consumed. He didn’t know whether his own cabin was already lost. He didn’t know if his chickens were still alive.

What he did know was this: the conflagration was all his fault.

Not literally, of course. It wasn’t like he’d lit the match. And he hadn’t set the tinderbox. The planet was rebelling. Climate change had made this fire season hotter and drier. Forest-management practices left more fuel on the ground, too, the unintended reper¬cussion of conscientious wildlife protection. Those were the reasons Waldo’s mountain was burning.

Those and, according to the news, arson.

But Waldo knew better. Call it karma, call it moral justice – Waldo knew his own wobbling had something to do with it, too.


Four years earlier, Waldo learned in an instant the precariousness of the world, the damage one man could do, the damage he could do, when his own zealous police work had led to the death of an innocent man. His life since had been a daily struggle not to do any more.

He had resigned from the force, ghosted his girlfriend Lorena and everyone else he knew, and bought twelve acres in Idyllwild, in the San Jacinto mountains, where he lived for three solitary years in self-sustaining austerity, making a near religion of his commitment to a zero-carbon footprint and to owning no more than One Hundred Things. And that worked for him, at least until Lorena showed up and triggered the chain of events which drew him away from his refuge and back into civilization.

She’d hoped to coax him into joining her expanding PI business, and back into their relationship, too. The latter took; the former, not so much. He did work one case with her, a missing-persons that turned rancid and left Waldo with no taste for more. She eventually stopped trying and seemed to accept the relationship as it was. He’d come down the mountain for a visit about once a month, usually for a few days when Willem – the male model she’d married during Waldo’s absence, estranged now but still her housemate – was out of town on a shoot.

It was a delicate equilibrium: less than Lorena wanted, but enough; a constant test of Waldo’s punishing minimalism, but within bounds he could handle.

Then Willem, wanting to cash in on the overheated L.A. real estate market, insisted that Lorena agree to sell their jointly owned Koreatown bungalow as a final condition of their divorce. He moved out the day the papers were signed.

The next time Waldo came to visit, the common spaces looked barren, Willem apparently the owner of most of their thousands of Things, including almost all the furniture.

Lorena looked lost in the empty house. That plucked at Waldo in ways he didn’t expect, and he ended up staying in town longer than he ever had before, almost two weeks. One night, after love-making fierce and profound even by their standards, Lorena said, ‘What if we got a place together?’

In a sense, it was reasonable to muse on.

In another, it was absurd. How could that work? In L.A., just as in Idyllwild, Waldo maintained his exacting rules for living, not allowing himself even an extra toothbrush to leave at her place. Meanwhile, in the face of his asceticism, Lorena clung to her consumerist pleasures all the harder. So, did she mean for him to give up his cabin, and to battle out all their joint decisions, item by item, precept by precept? Or did she mean for him to keep his cabin, and cohabit a second home, profligate beyond imagining?

That these questions were even on the table was a sign that

Waldo had gotten too comfortable here. His heart starting to race, he silently recited his catechism, the covenant with the world which he’d devised and repeated aloud regularly for his first few months alone on his mountain until it had become ingrained:

Don’t want, don’t acquire, don’t require.

Don’t affect.

Don’t hurt.

The answer was not complicated. It was not ambiguous. He needed to hold fast. Every time he hadn’t, every time he let his resolve slip, every time he compromised the principles which had redeemed him, something had gone wrong.

And this compromise would be bigger than anything Waldo had ever contemplated, the consequences surely bigger, too. He had to say no. Of course he had to say no.

He looked over at Lorena, her eyes closed, her lip curled in a gentle smile, and before he knew it he too was lost in the after¬glow. That ruinous afterglow.

And what Waldo said was: ‘Maybe.’

By the next afternoon, his mountain was in flames.

Four days later, alone in Lorena’s barren kitchen, Waldo scoured the internet for any morsel of new information. Evacuated – what did that actually mean? Had anyone remained to support the fire-fighters, or was it a ghost town? Not that he knew any of his fellow denizens anyway, even after four years, other than his batty neighbor Hilda Flitt, who kept an eye on his chickens when he was away. And Hilda wasn’t answering her phone.

Nor was Lorena, for that matter. He shot her another text and went back to surfing.

Surfing and blaming himself for the fire.

Not that he could talk about his guilt with Lorena. She’d already said something about him ‘getting worse’ and one time (at a downtown Szechuan restaurant, after he questioned the waiter as to why a restaurant that puts Environment Friendly! on the menu still tops the meal with plastic-wrapped fortune cookies), even asked whether he ‘ever thought about talking to somebody.’ Sure, why wouldn’t she want that? It’d be so much easier to have that ‘somebody’ browbeat Waldo into complaisance than to develop some environmentally responsible habits herself.

Maybe, though, this was what ‘getting worse’ looked like. Holding to rules was one thing, magical thinking another entirely, and after all, it was the guy with the barbecue lighter and the WD-40 who’d set the mountain ablaze, not Waldo.


It all happened just hours after Waldo’s maybe, and it was Waldo’s town about to be devoured, and Detective III Charlie Waldo had never believed in coincidences.

As the day wore on, the news from Idyllwild began to improve. Firefighters, dropping retardant from the sky, managed to cut the inferno just before it reached the Arts Academy, and suddenly they were using the words ‘mostly contained.’ Deep into the night, Hilda Flitt still wasn’t answering her phone. But the authorities had reopened 243, so Waldo could go back in the morning to see for himself whether his home was safe, whether he even had any Things left, save the ones on his back.

Waldo waited up for Lorena like he always did. He sprawled on her bed with his Kindle, chipping away at Richard White’s massive history of the late nineteenth-century United States, specifically a grim chapter about how American ‘progress’ killed off the bison and pushed the Native Americans to the reservations. Even though Waldo enjoyed the book greatly – it filled multiple lacunae in his knowledge and was peculiarly relevant to the U.S. in 2018 – tonight he struggled not to put it down.

What he itched to do instead was stream another episode of his new addiction, the sinfully titillating Judge Ida Mudge, which Lorena had told him about just this week and which instantly wormed its way into Waldo’s limbic system like none of his favorite junk television shows ever had, not even prime MTV Cribs. But he’d already watched two, using up the daily hour he allowed himself.

Waldo pushed to the end of the chapter and checked Lorena’s bedside clock. It was past midnight, later than he ever stayed up in his woods. Was his junk TV ‘day’ defined by his sleep schedule, or by the clock? That is, could he allow himself to watch ‘tomorrow’s’ Judge Idas now? If he was going to spend much of the next day traveling, he might not have time to watch anyway – so why not allow himself a smidgen of ethical squinching and stream an episode? Or two.

The sound of Lorena’s key in the door saved him from the lapse.

He went out to meet her in the living room. ‘Sorry I didn’t answer your texts,’ she said. ‘I got caught up with something.’ Her vagueness didn’t throw Waldo like it would have during the jealous years. She added, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

He shrugged, You don’t have to.

Apparently she did, though. ‘Something with an op. I had to take over a tail.’

‘Fat Dave?’ Lorena had three part-time operatives, two LAPD washouts and a wannabe. She swore they carried their weight but he found that hard to believe. Fat Dave Greenberg, whose rep as a world-class douchebag radiated far beyond Foothill Division, was the worst of them, as far as Waldo was concerned.

She repeated, ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ and Waldo repeated his you don’t have to shrug, but again she did. ‘Reddix,’ she said. Lucian Reddix was a young African American, the only one Waldo didn’t know from the force and the one for whom Lorena had the softest spot. ‘He was on a marital tail, followed the subject into a bar. Caught her with her boyfriend, was starting to shoot them on his phone . . . but the bartender came over and he asked for a beer.’


‘So they carded him. He’s not twenty-one until November.’ And this was her star. ‘It turned into a thing. Kid was sure he was made. Don’t say it.’

Waldo didn’t have to; he’d said plenty in the past. These jokers were one more reason not to enmesh himself in Lorena’s business.

‘Anyway,’ she said, ‘I went over and picked it up for him.’

‘Get what you need?’

‘And then some. Too cheap for a motel, these two. Got it on right in his car. Anyway, I wasn’t checking my texts – sorry. Listen,’ she said, changing the subject, ‘I could use a favor.’

He tensed; something in her voice told him it had to do with work. ‘Yeah?’

‘I’ve got a meeting with a prospective in a couple days. It’d help to have you there.’ It was the first time in half a year she’d tried to coax him onto a case. ‘I’m pretty sure you’d like this one.’ He’d heard that before.

Waldo said, ‘243’s open.’

‘Oh. Fire’s out?’

‘Contained enough, I guess. I’ve got to get up there.’

She drew a breath at the rejection. It had cost her something to ask again.

‘How?’ she said. ‘Not on your bike . . .?’ Since Waldo basically restricted himself to transportation that was either public or self-propelled, each trip from L.A. to Idyllwild meant a bus and then a tortuous, torturous bicycle climb. She said, ‘I could drive you.’

And then, she was no doubt thinking, she could drive him back down, once he was assured that his property was all right. Back to L.A. and her prospective client meeting. Back to L.A. and looking for a place for them to share.

He couldn’t do it. Besides, he had long ago decided that he’d grant himself a waiver to ride in a private automobile only with someone who’d already have been making the drive without him; clearly that didn’t apply here. He said, ‘I’ll be fine.’

‘With the smoke and everything? That’s so not healthy.’

She was probably right, but he tipped a shoulder anyway, a second rejection.

‘Waldo . . .’

‘I’ll be careful.’ Waldo knew he should hit her with a third, to rip off the Band-Aid quickly and tell her straight out that he wasn’t going to move in with her.

But she stopped him cold with the lopsided quarter-grin that grabbed him every time. ‘Last night in town is usually pretty good,’ she said, and headed to the bedroom, grazing the back of his neck with her fingertips as she passed.

He heard her start the shower. He knew he wouldn’t be able to tell her tonight. Not even if that meant the winds would pick up, the fire would jump the retardant line, and his woods would be imperiled all over again.

Maybe this time it would be the sex that burned it all down.


Excerpt from Pay or Play by Howard Michael Gould. Copyright 2021 by Howard Michael Gould. Reproduced with permission from Howard Michael Gould. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Howard Michael Gould

Howard Michael Gould graduated from Amherst College and spent five years working on Madison Avenue, winning three Clios and numerous other awards.

In television, he was executive producer and head writer of CYBILL when it won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series, and held the same positions on THE JEFF FOXWORTHY SHOW and INSTANT MOM. Other TV credits include FM and HOME IMPROVEMENT.
He wrote and directed the feature film THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY LEFAY, starring Tim Allen, Elisha Cuthbert, Andie MacDowell and Jenna Elfman. Other feature credits include MR. 3000 and SHREK THE THIRD.

His play DIVA premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and La Jolla Playhouse, and was subsequently published by Samuel French and performed around the country.

He is the author of three mystery novels featuring the minimalist detective Charlie Waldo: LAST LOOKS (2018) and BELOW THE LINE (2019), both nominated for Shamus Awards by the Private Eye Writers of America, and PAY OR PLAY (2021). The feature film version of LAST LOOKS, starring Charlie Hunnam and Mel Gibson and directed by Tim Kirkby, will premiere February, 2022; Gould also wrote the screenplay.

Catch Up With Howard Michael Gould:
Instagram – @howardmichaelgould
Twitter – @HowardMGould
Facebook – @HowardMGould



Tour Participants:

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The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi Banner

The Burden of Innocence

by John Nardizzi

December 6, 2021 – January 31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi

Private investigators Ray Infantino and Tania Kong take on the case of Sam Langford, framed for a murder committed by a crime boss at the height of his powers.

But a decade later, Boston has changed. The old ethnic tribes have weakened. As the PIs range across the city, witnesses remember the past in dangerous ways. The gangsters know that, in the new Boston, vulnerable witnesses they manipulated years ago are shaky. Old bones will not stay buried forever.

As the gang sabotages the investigation, will Ray and Tania solve the case in time to save an innocent man?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Crime Noir
Published by: Weathertop Media Co.
Publication Date: December 5, 2021
Number of Pages: 290
ISBN: 978-1-7376876-0-3
Series: PI Ray Infantino Series, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

Read an excerpt:

Part 1

Boston Massachusetts
Chapter 1

Two burly guards from the sheriff’s department walked Sam Langford to the van. He noticed a newspaper wedged in a railing—his name jumped off the page in bold print: Jury to Decide Langford’s Fate In Waterfront Slaying. The presumption of innocence was a joke. You took the guilt shower no matter what the jury decided. He thought of his mother then, and the old ladies like her, reading the headline as they sipped their morning coffee across the city. He was innocent. But they would hate him forever.

A guard shoved Langford’s head below the roofline. He sat down in the cargo section, the only prisoner today. The guard secured him to a bar that ran the length of the floor, the chain rattling an icy tune. The van squealed off.

Langford’s head felt so light it could drift right off his shoulders. The van lurched, and he slid on the cold metal bench. The driver bumped the van into some potholes. Langford dug his heels into the floor. This was a guard-approved amusement ride, bouncing felon maggots off good ‘ol American steel. Sam had observed this man that morning. Something about his face was troubling. Sheriffs, guards, cops—most of them were okay. They didn’t bother him because he didn’t bother them. But cop work attracted certain men who hid their true selves. Men with a vicious streak that could turn an average day into a private torture chamber. These men were cancers to be avoided. Average days were what he wanted in jail. No violent breaks in the tedium.

The van careened on and stopped at a loading dock of the hulking courthouse, which jutted in the sky like a pale granite finger accusing the heavens. The last day of trial. Outside, Langford saw TV news vans and raised satellite dishes, the reporters being primped and padded for the live shot. The rear doors opened and the guard’s shaved skull appeared in silhouette. He tensed as the guard grabbed his arm and pulled him out. The guard wore a thin smile. “We’ll take the smooth road back. Just for you,” he muttered.

A clutch of photographers hovered behind a wall above the dock. Langford looked up at the blue sky, as he always did, focusing on breathing deeply. He would never assist, not for a minute, in his own degradation. He was innocent. He would not cooperate. Let them run their little circus, the cameras, the shouted questions, boom microphones drooped over his head to pick up a stray utterance. He leveled his jaw and looked past them. He knew he had no chance with them.

The guards walked him inside the courthouse and to an elevator. The chains clanked as they swung with his movement. They took the elevator to the eight floor where a court officer escorted the group into a hallway. Langford pulled his body erect toward the ceiling, as high as he could get. He intended to walk in the courtroom like some ancient Indian chieftain, unbowed. He was innocent and that sheer fact gave him some steel, yes it did.

The door opened and he stepped inside the courtroom. The gallery looked packed full, as usual. Cameras clicked. Low voices in the crowd hissed venom. “Death sentence is too good for you, asshole,” whispered one. He whispered a bit too loudly. A court officer wasted no time, hustling over and guiding the man to the exit.

Langford walked ahead, keeping his dark eyes focused. His family might watch this someday. Some ragged old news clip showing their son’s dark history. He struggled to keep the light burning behind his eyes. Something true, something eternal might show through. At least he hoped so. He had told his lawyer there would be no last-minute plea deal; he was innocent, and that was it.

As he walked, he felt the eyes of the crowd pick over him, watching for some involuntary tic that would betray his thoughts. But fear roiled his belly. He was afraid, no doubt. He knew the old saying that convicted murderers sat at the head table in the twisted hierarchy of a prison. But the fact remained—every prisoner walked next to a specter of sudden violence. He desperately wanted to avoid prison.

Keys rattled in the high-ceilinged courtroom as the officers unchained him. He rubbed his wrists and then sat down at the defense table. His defense lawyer, George Sterling, took the seat next to him. He was dressed in a dark blue suit with a bright orange-yellow tie. The color seemed garish for the occasion.

“How you doing, Sam?”

“Hopeful. But ready for the worst.”

Sterling grabbed his hand and shook it firmly. But his eyes betrayed him. Langford got a sense even his lawyer felt a catastrophe was coming.

The mother of the dead woman sat one row away from his own mother. Even here, mothers bore the greatest pain. Both women stared at him. Langford nodded to his mother as she mouthed the words, “I love you”. He smiled briefly. He glanced at the mother of the dead girl but looked away. Her eyes blazed with hatred and pain. He wanted to say something. But the odds were impossible. The reporters would misconstrue any gesture; the court officers might claim he threatened her. He saw no way out. Even a basic act of human kindness became muddled in a courtroom.

A court officer yelled, “All rise.” The whispers died down, and the gallery rose. The judge came in from chambers in a black-robed flurry. The lawyers went to sidebar, that curious phenomenon where they gather and whisper at the judge’s bench like kids in detention. Then the judge signaled the sidebar was over and told the court officer to bring in the jury. The jurors walked to the jury box, every one of them fixed with a blank look on their faces. None of them met his eyes. One juror eventually looked over at him. He tried to gauge his fate in her flat eyes, the set of her face. But there was nothing to see.

As the judge and lawyers spoke, the lightheadedness left him. Everything came into focus. Langford watched the foreperson hand a slip of paper to a court officer. She took a few steps and handed the paper to the judge. The judge pushed gray hairs off her forehead, examined the paper and placed it on her desk. A silence descended. Shuffles of feet, small muted coughs. People waited for a meteor to hit the earth. The clerk read the docket number into the record and the judge looked over to the foreperson, a woman with long dark hair and glasses. “On indictment 2001183 charging the defendant Samuel Langford with murder, what say you madame foreperson, is the defendant not guilty or guilty of murder in the first degree?”

“We find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree.”

To Langford, the words seemed unreal, from a world away. A mist slid over his eyes. Gasps of joy, cries of surprise. A few spectators began clapping. The judge banged the gavel. Someone sobbed behind him, and this sound he knew; his mother was crying now openly. His body petrified. He couldn’t turn around.

Sterling put one hand on his shoulder, which snapped him back. The gesture irritated him. He didn’t want to be touched. Sterling’s junior assistant cupped his hand over his mouth. Sterling said something about the evidence, they would file an appeal. Langford stared at him. The reality of his new life began to emerge.

The process moved quickly, the ending like all good endings—neat, nothing overdone, but nothing left to wonder about either. Court officers shackled him again and stood clasping his arms. The judge thanked the jury for their service. Langford felt overwhelmed by absurdity—they were being thanked for sending an innocent man to prison. The gulf between the truth and what was happening made him feel sick; they believed he had killed the poor woman. The judge told the lawyers to prepare for sentencing in a week. A guard pushed him through a door to the right and he could hear muffled sounds, people calling his name, as if the voices came through a dense fog over a distance. His head, floating, floating beyond the real.

It was over.

Down the long corridor they moved him, toward the rear lot and the prisoner’s dock. A flock of reporters circled the van. “Any comment, Mr. Langford?” “Mr. Langford, will you appeal this verdict?” “Do you want to say something to the family of the victim?” Then a hand pushed down on the back of his head and he stooped inside the van. The guard chained him to the floor. There was that slight smile on his lips.

The engine shot to life. Langford waited for the door to close. Sludge ran through his veins. He closed his eyes and let despair surge through his heart.

Chapter 2
15 years later

In a corner at the Sanchez Boxing Gym in the South End, Ray Infantino braced his lean frame, fired a jab, threw a left hook off the jab and smashed an overhand right. The heavy bag jerked on the chain like a drunken tourist caught out late in the wrong part of town. He moved around the heavy bag, feet sliding, not hopping. He threw another right cross and then switched stances, the right foot in the lead. He hooked a low right followed by an overhead left. His father showed him that move when he was a kid. He stopped once the bell rang for the end of the round. Sweat poured off his toned physique.

He pulled off the gloves to tighten his hand wraps. He wrapped his hands the way his father had taught: loop the thumb and then through the fingers, making the fist a steel ball. It pissed him off when he saw other fighters not wrapping between the fingers, a lack of finesse he found appalling.

There was action all over the gym—sparring in the three rings, prospects putting in their bag work, trainers barking out instructions. Two young men gathered nearby and watched him. They were new. Ray had never seen them before. After he finished his workout, one of them ventured toward him.

“You fight pretty good.”

“Hope I’m good as you when I’m that old.”
Ray whipped a fist toward the guy and stopped an inch from his face. The guy’s mouth gaped. His friend broke out laughing. Ray walked away and pointed at the man. “Show some respect when you come in here,” he said. “Forty ain’t old.”

He laughed and headed to the showers. The last few days were a rare respite from the grind. When his case involving a missing woman in the San Francisco underworld hit the news, his business boomed. He was a name now. That’s how it worked in the legal business. When you were newsworthy, clients deemed it safe to pay large retainers up front, and he could decline work he didn’t want. He still kept his black hair long in back and kept lean and fit, preserving illusions of youth, but he knew his time in this business was closer to the end than the beginning. By the end of the case in San Francisco, he had come to accept what happened. His old life was gone forever. His relationship with Dominique did not seem like it would survive. But the haunted rims below his eyes faded and he felt reinvigorated, ready for new challenges.

He headed out for a coffee at a cafe across the street. Last year, his doctor advised him he should cut down, but he felt it was a minor vice. Not healthy to deny the small things that make life worth living. He took a seat in the window. He appreciated his new place in the South End. Long a home to Latino and black families, the 1990s brought an influx of new residents like him to the old brownstones—downtown office workers, architects, gay couples—looking for the rich canvas of city living. Block by block, cafes and restaurants were renovated, old wood paneling stripped and refurbished, the construction boom rolling out toward Massachusetts Avenue. He enjoyed walking the uneven brick sidewalks and coming upon vestiges of the old neighborhood: a bookstore packed with two floors of hardcovers in an old brownstone, the painted letters on a brick wall of the long closed Sahara restaurant, hollyhocks that bloomed from a tucked away corner.

His cell phone rang and he saw the call forwarded from his office. He remembered that his receptionist Sheri had taken the day off.

“Ray Infantino Agency, how can I help you?”

“Hi, this is Dan Stone. I’m a defense lawyer here in Boston. I got your name from a lawyer I met at a bar event—you came highly recommended. Wondering if you might be able to help me on an old murder case. I’m going to see a new client, Sam Langford. Not sure if you heard about the case, it began over fifteen years ago.”

“I don’t remember it.”

“Langford’s case was high profile at the time. A violent rape-murder on the waterfront. The trial brought out the worst: witnesses with serious drug addictions, rogue cops. People thought Langford looked like the cleanest guy in the courthouse. But the jury still convicted. There was a dead girl. Someone needed to pay. Langford was easy. Not necessarily the right guy, but he was the available target.”

Ray was used to this nonsense from defense lawyers. No one was guilty in their world. Still, he recalled now that he had heard something of Stone: bright guy, a plugger in the courtroom, well prepared rather than depending on flashy trial antics.

“I’m going to see him this week and want to reach out to see if you would come with me. Schedule permitting. We have learned a few things, and he says he wants to talk over the next steps. I believe he is innocent, Ray. He’s been trying for close to fifteen years to prove it. You know the standard in these cases. Very high bar.”

“Cops are allowed a lot of leeway to be wrong.”

“Right. We have to show intent, or at least recklessness, when it comes to police misconduct. If we can uncover new evidence, I would plan on filing a motion for a new trial within a year.”

Stone went blabbing on about the legal issues. “So what do you think?

He had time to take it on. “Is this a private case?”

Stone hesitated. “No. I’m appointed by the public defender’s office.”

“Impossible odds and crappy pay. How can I resist?”

Stone laughed. “Okay then. I know this is real short notice, but any chance you’re free this afternoon?”

Ray checked his schedule. “That’s fine. Where’s he held?”

“Walpole. There was an incident at the max so they moved him there.”

“I’ll meet you in the lobby at 1:00 PM.”

Ray hung up the phone and stood up, gazing out the window at the copper rooftops. The odds were terrible in such cases. He thought back to his father Leo and how they had destroyed him. He decided that the next time there was an uneven fight, he would ensure the little guy had a weapon.


Excerpt from The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi. Copyright 2021 by John Nardizzi. Reproduced with permission from John Nardizzi. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

John Nardizzi

John Nardizzi is writer and investigator. His work on innocence cases led to the exoneration Gary Cifizzari and James Watson, as well as million dollar settlements for clients Dennis Maher and the estate of Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the film Conviction.
His crime novels won praise for crackling dialogue and pithy observations of detective work. He speaks and writes about investigations in numerous settings, including World Association of Detectives, Lawyers Weekly, Pursuit Magazine and PI Magazine. Prior to his PI career, he failed to hold any restaurant job for longer than a week. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Catch Up With John Nardizzi:
BookBub — @johnf4
Twitter — @AuthorPI
Facebook — @WeathertopMedia

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Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways! 

12/06 Review @ flightnurse70_book_reviews
12/08 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
12/10 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
12/11 Showcase @ The Bookwyrm
12/19 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs
12/20 Review @ Pat Fayo Revirws
12/21 Review @ Novels Alive
12/22 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
01/07 Showcase @ Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
01/08 Showcase @ Silvers Reviews
01/12 Review @ Avonna Loves Genres
01/15 Guest post @ Author Elena Taylors Blog
01/19 Review @ Nesies Place


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Piercing Words

Writing must pierce. Being a writer is like sitting on the table for your  first tattoo, or earring, or nose ring. The searing needle burning into your skin, the drop of blood a symbol of what you’ve done. Your body is forever altered.

And the way the world sees you has also changed. You’ve made an impression on it; on every passerby that briefly or profoundly stares at you. The gaze depends on the beholder. For some it’s the spectacle of a freak. For others, an attractive impression burned into their mind. It doesn’t matter what the reader sees; it matters that the writer has become vulnerable to the gaze of others.

That’s what scares me about a world without creative spectacle; without a needle and body. That world may very well be dystopian. Ruled by seemingly harmonious rules and order, but that cut the body’s nose in spite of its face. 

Writing and art push the boundaries, creating the I am and You are that is so essential to the disgusting or adoring gaze of the other. It is from that place that society can learn tolerance, understanding, and progress. 

Without creativity we are doomed to our own banality and flattening.  In my novel, Surrogate Colony, people are given X-ray vision to protect themselves from viruses and bacteria. However,  X-ray vision in Microscrep isn’t meant to create the piercing reality that society needs to be vulnerable, or creative. It is used to collectively control chaos. However, as the main character, Adriana learns, without chaos we cannot have creativity or desire. 

By Boshra Rasti

You can reach Boshra Rasti on Facebook!