My Top 10 Books

I’m thrilled to welcome author Christina Hoag to the Power of 10 series. Today, Christina shares her favorite books to read and two of her own releases, Skin of Tattoos and Girl on the Brink.

Here’s Christina!

christinahoagauthorheadshot-2These are some of my favorite books, some classics, some contemporary. They’re in no particular order.

1. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
If there’s a Great American Novel, then surely this must be it. One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, especially the ending. The story details the hard journey westward by the Okies escaping the dust bowl, and is ultimately a reflection of the indomitable American spirit.

2. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Another powerful American classic by another American Nobel winner, Beloved is the name of a baby killed by her mother, an escaped slave, when she is captured because she considered death better than growing up in slavery. This story stayed with me for a long time after I finished the book.

3. The Goat’s Party by Mario Vargas Llosa
My favorite book by this Peruvian Nobel winner. It’s a fictionalization of the last days of the brutal Dominican dictator Trujillo and tells the story of his assassins and their plot. It’s a brilliant piece of historical reconstruction and a fascinating read.

4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This is my all time favorite romance. How could a book that details one man’s undying love for a woman over half a century not be? It takes place in 19th century Cartagena, Colombia, and the Nobel winner Garcia masterfully evokes both the romance of the era, setting and the story.

5. Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte
The current hit TV show on USA Network is very loosely based on this thriller. The book is far better. I sped right through this tale of a Mexican woman who not only survives but thrives in the male-dominated dangerous world of international drug trafficking. Gripping and compelling.

6. Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle by Ingrid Betancourt
I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but Latin American politics and crime are big interests of mine. This memoir, which details the former Colombian presidential candidate’s abduction by guerrillas and life as a hostage, details an incredible story about human nature and the triumph of the human spirit — and it’s extremely well written.

7. Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood
This is an Australian classic first published in 1881. I was spellbound by this frontier tale of Captain Starlight and the Marston boys: bushrangers, cattle rustlers but generally sympathetic scallywags as they evade the law through goldfields and bush country.

8. A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd
This was a hilarious book, a total send up of the stodgy British foreign service. The protagonist is a rather hapless junior embassy official in a fictional African country, and he finds himself constantly wading into trouble. I had to run out to the parking lot to listen to this book on my lunch hour, I was addicted to it!

9. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
My favorite Hemingway. What can I say? It’s got all my top elements: heroes involved in a political conflict, a foreign setting, adventure and romance.

10. Vanity Fair by WillliamThackeray
A whopper at 800 pages, but totally worth it. I loved this surprisingly readable story of Becky Sharp, who uses her wiles and wit to climb the social ladder in the early 19th century London. A satirical comedy that pokes fun at social mores and snobs.

Christina’s Books

skinoftattooscover-2Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone – he loves.


girlonthebrinkcover-2The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Amazon US | Smashwords | Kobo


Christina Hoag is the author of Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld (Martin Brown Publishers, August 2016) and Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016). She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She lives in Los Angeles.

Where to find Christina…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

All About Information Overload Awareness Day

informationoverload2When a group of companies decided to establish Information Overload Awareness Day, their primary objective was to remind employees (and the general public) that there is simply too much information out there. Unchecked, this “infobesity” can have a negative impact on overall productivity and happiness.

Eight years ago, I had email and other correspondence under control. I was teaching full-time and would check emails and messages at most three times a day. Dealing with back-to-back classes, meetings, and extra-help sessions left with me with only small pockets of free time during the day. In the evenings, I disciplined myself to check email only after my marking and lesson preparation was complete.

Everything changed when I retired and started a full-time writing career. Suddenly, my in-box overflowed with messages from editors, publishers, and writers in different time zones. When I joined several national and international groups, I also had access to their Yahoo groups. Participating in Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media added to the constant flow of information.

My personal numbers:

• 8 Yahoo Groups
• Over 5K Twitter followers
• 500+ connections on each of the following: LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
• 70+ emails each day
• Following 30+ blogs
• Active participant in Twitter chats

Here are some tips that help me stay on track:

email-control-11. Schedule blocks of time for email, doing research, completing work-related tasks, and simply browsing. Do not simply jump on anytime you feel like it. If necessary, disconnect from the internet if you need to focus on a particular task. In his book, The Power of Less, Leo Babuta introduces the idea of an “offline hour,” which could be extended to an “offline day.”

2. Turn off email notifications. Most programs have alerts like a sound, pop-up message, or blinking icon that let you know when you have received a new email. This interruption can be disruptive and gives power to anyone who wants to email you.

3. Work your way from top to bottom, one email at a time. Open each email and deal with it immediately. Reply, delete, or archive for future reference. Whenever possible, limit your response to five or fewer sentences. This forces you to be concise and limits the time spent in the email box. Before deleting any email, ensure there will be no negative consequences.

4. Take your breaks away from the Internet. Instead of checking social media during lunch and breaks, get away from your desk: take a walk, meditate, practice yoga, meet with friends.

5. Eat the frog. This famous dictum comes from Mark Twain, who strongly recommended completing difficult—and sometimes unpleasant—tasks early in the day. e.g. Writing a synopsis, outlining a novel, completing a round of edits.


How do you deal with Information Overload?

10 Interesting Behind-the-Scenes Facts About Jockeying for You

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Stacy Hoff to the Power of 10 series. Today, Stacy shares a behind-the-scenes look at her latest release, Jockeying for You.

Here’s Stacy!

1. I knew nothing—absolutely nothing—about the sport of horse racing before I started researching for this book.

2. In order to learn more about the sport, I packed my bags and took several road trips. I headed off to Belmont Park (Queen, NY) and the Saratoga Race Course (Saratoga Springs, NY).


3. I also visited the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma Training Track, both in Saratoga Springs, NY.


4. While in Saratoga Springs, I visited the Roosevelt Bath House & Spa, and took a guided water tour of Saratoga Spa State Park. The information I learned about the Park & Bathhouse’s legendary healing waters plays an important part of my story.

5. This is my first sports romance book. I’ve jumped around genres quite a bit (from action/adventure to women’s fiction) although I always stay within “contemporary.”

6. I took my kids to the Saratoga Race Course. Good thing they’re too young to bet. The horse they chose for the race we saw came in dead last.

jockeygoggles-27. My youngest son was given a pair of jockey goggles at the Saratoga Race Course by notable jockey Samuel Camacho, Jr., who was kind enough to autograph them. My son treasures this gift.

8. In downtown Saratoga Springs I visited a derby hat store, and learned all about these hats. It was surprising to learn that derby hats are mandatory for a track’s VIP women. If they do not wear one, they are barred from the VIP areas for not meeting the dress code requirements.

9. I also learned from the hat store that fascinations are smaller-sized head coverings. Wearing one of these will make a VIP woman at the track sufficiently dressed to access some of the VIP areas, although not all. Fascinations are not viewed as being as “appropriate” as derby hats.

10. I was challenged to write this book at a writers’ conference I attended, where participants were asked to come up with a plot line with external action showing the protagonist’s internal (i.e. emotional) character arc.



Jake Carter is on a mission—to prove his family wrong. He may have bought a troubled horse, but he’s hired Ryder Hannon, a “horse whisperer,” to get his horse back on track. She’s more than just a trainer to him, she’s the woman he’s been looking for.

Ryder Hannon, a thoroughbred horse trainer, has a big problem—fighting her fear of racing again. Her emotional scars run deeper than her physical ones. But her romantic feelings toward handsome, uber-rich, stable owner Jake Carter is a bigger problem. Is Jake truly in love with her or is he using her to get back at his smug family?

When Jake’s jockey gets injured, he wants Ryder to race. He knows deep down she wants to live up to her family’s legacy. So why does she keep fighting him—and her destiny?


stacyhoff2Where to find Stacy…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon

At the Book Bash Festival

book-bash-001Yesterday, I joined over thirty local authors, poets, publishers, and literary organizations for this year’s Book Bash Festival at the Red Papaya Restaurant in downtown Guelph. Presented by the Friends of Vocamus Press in partnership with Action Read, The Bookshelf, and the Guelph Public Library, this celebration is a much anticipated fall event.

Throughout the afternoon, poets and authors of all genres–fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, Young Adult, memoir, short story and essay collections, children’s books, adult coloring books, visual art, inspirational literature–gave short introductions, sold copies, and mingled with the audience.

Special thanks to…

book-bash-008Host Anna Bowen and singer/musician Madison Gallway for an entertaining afternoon.

Volunteers who helped with the planning and organization throughout the past year.

Our sponsors: CareWell, JanusBooks, Living Yoga & Health, Modern Castles, Moisan & Associates, University of Guelph Library.

Servers at Red Papaya for their cheerful and efficient service. BTW…Great spring rolls!

And, last but definitely not least, Luke Hill of Vocamus Press for spearheading this annual event. We appreciate your commitment to showcasing the written word in Guelph and Wellington County.




Spotlight on Bailey’s Remarkable Plan

I’m happy to welcome businessman, entrepreneur, and author David Hardiman. Today, David shares his inspiring journey and memoir, Bailey’s Remarkable Plan.

Here’s David!

david-and-bailey-2016-2Have you ever been alone with your thoughts and realized you had a purpose beyond your past or the future others believed was in your cards? Well, I became aware at an early age that my future was more than I understood at the time. In my heart, I realized that my life would change when I became an adult; that it would change from the limited vision of my youthful experience. I planned for a better life from that point forward. I knew at an early age that I would someday express my thoughts and stories through the written word. I wanted to be an author from that time.

As an author, you have options others don’t. You can really be anyone you desire, good or bad; often without the consequences. Your imagination is your road map to success. That is true even if your genre is nonfiction. Why? You decide how to express your thoughts and what your words will show.

As a businessman and entrepreneur, I found myself writing in a different way than as an author. That may sound confusing, but it is not at all. My professional career required an ability to clearly express my thoughts through written words in such a way as to successfully convince an individual or group of individuals what I proposed or desired was the solution needed to complete their wishes. When dealing with contracts worth millions of dollars, you may not get a second chance to convince your audience to do as you wish. The real beauty of this time and effort was it was like the sharpening of a knife; the knife can only cut well when its edge has been honed to perfection. My skills were improved because my style was sharpened for years by my interchange in my written and verbal efforts.

I began writing my first book in 2003. Shortly thereafter, I met with a literary agent to reach out and to see what my possibilities were from his understanding of the industry. It troubled me that an author who creates a work is relegated to the back row, at least in the beginning, and really has little control of the end product once it has been handed off to a publishing house. I suppose that is a struggle many authors face. I began looking for the way I could get my books to my audience without the mainstream publishing industry possibly changing or diluting my words.

When learning to walk, you experience lots of stumbles and you fall down far more times than you would like. It was very difficult to decide whom to trust with the responsibility of publishing my book. The best part of my decision was that it provided me the ability to control the content of my book so that I was able to show the quality of my style of writing. Of course, making sure my story was everything I wanted was part of my enjoyment as I achieved success.

Bailey’s Remarkable Plan tells part of my life story and shares some of my journey to become a writer. Challenges in life are not unusual, and my challenges were numerous. As a child, I faced many obstacles that often other people are unable to overcome. I was ill with many different health problems throughout childhood and visited the local hospital on several occasions; in one instance, for a long extended stay.

The cause of my health problems would not be known until I reached the ripe old age of 53. In 2000, after two years of illness and living on antibiotics, my internal medicine specialist referred me to a hematologist/oncologist. His diagnosis would answer a lifetime of questions. A rare congenital immune system defect diagnosis would finally explain over five decades of illness.

Knowing the cause of nearly all my life long health difficulties was not the most enlightening storyline to come out of this difficult time. My condition is considered medically life threatening and non-curable. The most recognized approach to helping my condition is an infusion of gamma globulin. About three months into my first regimen, my doctor examined me and then invited me into his private office. It was here my story would take on a whole new dimension, and the real amazing part of my life would be revealed.

He began our conversation by asking me why I believed I had been able to overcome the medical obstacles in my life. I was confused by his question; after all, I was not the doctor. He clarified that he wanted to know my opinion of why I had been able to overcome all my challenges in life. I explained to him that I had trusted God and Christ throughout my life after I was baptized at the age of 11. Each time my life spiraled out of control with illness or other challenges, I simply gave it all to God in prayer and allowed Him to take care of me.


It was then that he shared with me that I am unique in all his experience and knowledge of this condition. My genius oncologist researched at length other medical cases in addition to those he himself had diagnosed and cared for. He told me that historically people who have my condition are not successful in life. Those who are born with this long and difficult to spell and say genetic immune system defect and with the medical history I had growing up, typically, do not survive childhood.

He told me that no case he could find showed any of the people who have this immune disorder being successful in even one area, much less all areas of life as I have enjoyed. He told me that in spite of his own Buddhist belief, my answer had to be the reason for my survival and success in life. I was stunned that he would so readily agree with me as to my faith being the explanation for how I had accomplished my life. My shock was even further magnified when he explained to me that my faith was the one element he did not find in all his research of the cases he was able to find and review. That was evidence to him of why I was successful in living my life.

Fast-forward 10 years and my life would have yet another onslaught of unexpected difficulty that would take every fiber of my being to survive. In the previous two years, I had started treatments again because I kept living on antibiotics. My doctor’s hope was that he could once again revive my immune system as had occurred all those years ago during my first round of infusions.

This time, things would not go so well. He was forced to stop treatment when I failed to respond and began getting worse. New and different problems were causing me to lose all my energy, and I began to have difficulty with a new beast. Whereas I had always been able to take the stresses of my life and turn them into achievements, I became overwhelmed and was unable to force my way through the problems I faced. Instead of accomplishment, I now had failure whenever I pushed out on any project. I caught whatever new bug was frequenting our area and was forced to try and recover instead of accomplishing tasks. Then my doctors discovered that my issues were due to a weakened adrenal system. Eventually some of my function would improve, but I never returned to my normal.

The scary part was yet to come. In 2008, just a few months before my treatments began, my wife, Trish, and I bought a new shih tzu puppy. Bailey was to be my wife’s little girl. She, however, refused our plan; Bailey insisted that I was hers and she was mine. Almost everyone who saw us together observed that this little bundle of fur would not let me out of her sight.

When I began taking treatments, I noticed something special about Bailey. After spending three to four hours each time receiving my intravenous treatments, I would come home and go to bed. Bailey would climb in bed with me and stay as close as possible until I woke up. When I got up, she either sat with me or stayed by my feet and did not leave my side. It became apparent she was taking care of me.

During and after the months of treatment, Bailey did her best to minimize my stress and seemed to concentrate on making me well. We began to refer to her as Nurse Bailey or Dr. Bailey.

In 2010, a new and even more frightening chapter of my life began; a chapter that would change me and bring to bear how important Bailey is to and for me. Four letters describe a condition that only those who live with it can truly understand and attempt to explain. PTSD – which stands for post-traumatic stress disorder – is a demon that comes to visit and stays. This evil monster consumes the person it attacks and changes the life of those affected. In addition, PTSD impacts and stresses those closest to the one being attacked. It creates unimaginable difficulties in living daily with the beast influencing how one reacts to the personal environment, human interchanges and a host of normally taken for granted occurrences.

My life went 180 degrees the opposite direction from how I had accomplished my history. Gregarious and outgoing previously, I now became withdrawn and introverted. This was the scariest moment in my life that I could remember.

Medicine did not help. Talking did not help. Nothing my doctors or I did helped me deal with life as I had always been able to do. What emerged was new and fascinating once I was able to realize what was occurring to me. I began to notice that Bailey made me more comfortable with everything happening around me. She somehow knew when I was about to experience a panic attack, and she would alert me to its impending arrival in time that I could prepare myself to deal with the explosion of vile emotion. Bailey became my service dog, and she now makes it possible for me to recover a larger portion of how my life once was.

Bailey’s Remarkable Plan tells the story of how a boy became a man living with some unimaginable difficulties. It also shares how, thanks to my trust in God, I overcame immense obstacles to live a full-and-successful life.

This story, my story, will inspire you and lift you. Bailey is my rescuer, and her story is woven into the intricate framework of our history together.

Without Bailey, I would never have written this book. Without Bailey, it is doubtful I would have ever realized my dream of becoming a published author. Now, as a published author, there is still much I wish and need to learn.

In 2003, I began writing a book of fiction; and I still intend to publish that book. You might think that was the end of my journey to become an author, but that would be incorrect. That book was not the end of my beginning because it is not the story I was meant to tell at this point in my life. I had worked for years on that book, only to put it aside so I could write this book.

I awoke one morning with Bailey’s Remarkable Plan in my head. I got out of bed and immediately began the pursuit of completing our story. It took less than three months to write, and it was if the story flowed from my fingers. Amazing!



Where to find David…

Website | Facebook | Amazon | Email

Top 10 Fav Noir Films!

I’m happy to welcome award-winning Canadian author M.H. Callway to my blog. Today, Madeleine shares her favorite Noir Films and her books.

Here’s Madeleine!

I’m a visual writer. I fell in love with the movies at age three. As a teenager, I fell under the spell of noir cinema: tough settings criss-crossed with black shadows, peopled with sinners doing horrible things to each other – what was not to love?

So in honour of Noir at the Bar (Bouchercon 2016), here are my Top 10 Fav Noir Films. Most centre on strong, complex female characters. Their striking settings are often surreal and have stayed in my mind forever. The characters get justice even if that justice is harsh and twisted. And almost all feature devastating endings with a darkly satiric edge.

So here’s my list. I’d love to hear from you about your 10 Fav Film Noirs.

blood-simple10. BLOOD SIMPLE (Joel & Ethan Coen) – The debut film of the Coen brothers who developed the story from Dashiel Hammett’s phrase “blood simple” meaning crazed by violence.

An unpleasant man hires a shady PI to murder his wife and her lover. Things naturally go awry with a literally harrowing murder scene that rivals the death of Rasputin. One of the best exit lines ever, delivered by veteran character actor, M. Emmet Walsh whose performance oozes sleaze.

lady-from-shanghai9. LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles) – Orson Welles ran out of money trying to stage a musical version of Around the World in 80 Days. He allegedly pitched The Lady from Shanghai to Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn while looking at the cover of a pulp novel he’d never read. It’s a “who’s gonna kill who” thriller with adult dialogue sparked with sharp-edged barbs.

Welles invented the final shoot-out in a fun house of mirrors, a sequence that’s become standard in action and horror films. Nearly 70 years later, Welles’s original remains the best.

sorry-wrong-number8. SORRY WRONG NUMBER (Anton Litvak) – A spoiled, bed-ridden heiress overhears a murder plot on her telephone. Through a series of phone conversations with strangers and her unhappy husband, she realizes the thugs are about to murder her.

Based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher, the film works because of its unusual plot structure and a terrific performance by Barbara Stanwyck as the woman you love to hate.

A devastatingly satisfying one-line ending: “Sorry, wrong number.”

mildred-pierce7. MILDRED PIERCE (Michael Curtiz) – Based on the novel by master noir writer, James M. Cain. The film depicts the rise and fall of businesswoman, Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford).

Abandoned by her husband, Mildred battles poverty and terrible grief to support her family. Against all odds, she becomes rich, but her insatiable drive to join high society ends up destroying what she fought so hard to save: her family. A remarkable film even in 2016, because the tragic hero is a woman rather than a man.

vertigo6. VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock) – A masterpiece mystery thriller that shows how a grippingly profound story can be created with a minimum of characters. The film explores the destructive power of self-delusion and mental illness at a visceral level.

A law officer develops vertigo after a nearly fatal fall. His phobia makes him the victim of a diabolical plot. James Stewart is at his best as the unsympathetic hero: even Hitchcock’s heavily artificial camera work, invented to mimic vertigo, does the job. One of the best and most devastating movie endings of all time!

the-third-man5. THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed) A thriller filmed on location in the rubble of post-WWII Vienna. It goes beyond genre in examining business corruption, betrayal and the tragedy of misplaced loyalty.

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), a broke pulp fiction writer, travels to Vienna to meet his old friend, Harry Lime, who’s promised him a job. But he arrives to find that Lime has been killed in a hit and run car accident and is wanted by the police. Looking for answers, Martins uncovers some nasty truths about Lime.

Despite being on screen for only a short time, Orson Welles is the perfect Moriarty, intellectually brilliant, articulate, urbane and utterly indifferent to his friends. The final chase through the sewers of Vienna is pure noir, the unromantic ending logical. When visiting Vienna, do check out the Third Man Walking Tour.

fargo4. FARGO (Joel & Ethan Coen) A police thriller where the misery of a North Dakota winter and the mundanity of Midwest culture work as well as the mean streets of noir.

A beleaguered car salesman (William Macy) conspires with a pair of criminals to kidnap his wife for money and to get revenge on his rich father-in-law. Naturally things go pear-shaped, partly due to the dogged investigation by the local – and heavily pregnant- police chief (Frances McDormand).

Some really macabre scenes – we all know what’s gonna happen with that wood chipper – and lots of dark humour. Who can forget Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) burying the ransom money in the endless snow along the highway then marking the spot with a tiny ice scraper? Ordinary folks and petty criminals alike die because they’re not equipped to deal with true evil, as portrayed by Danish Shakespearean actor, Peter Stormare. For once good triumphs over evil…sort of.

the-asphalt-jungle3. THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (John Huston) The heist film that spawned the caper sub-genre. Classic noir: tough criminal characters, mean streets, desperate motivations, greed and corruption.

Four criminals and a corrupt lawyer conspire to rob a fortune in jewels, but are undone by mutual treachery and unforeseen hitches in their plan. Great performances by Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe. Interestingly, the film features the debut of Marilyn Monroe as the elderly lawyer’s young mistress. At the time, she wasn’t big enough to be on the movie poster!

touch-of-evil2. TOUCH OF EVIL (Orson Welles) Tough choice between my top two favs: they’re really a tie.

I first saw Touch of Evil on late night TV. Deemed weird and disturbing at the time, I secretly loved it and still do. Seeing it now, I believe that the film was too truthful for the time because of its candid portrayal of police corruption and violence. Today it’s listed as one of the best films of the 20th century.

In the story, two people are killed when a car bomb goes off at a border crossing between the USA and Mexico. The veteran American cop, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), wants a quick solution and plants evidence to frame the most likely suspect, a Mexican citizen. Vargas, the Mexican detective (Charleton Heston), stands up to Quinlan with blowback that nearly kills him and his American wife, Susie (Janet Leigh).

Classic noir: mean streets, corruption, nasty characters, drugs, illicit sex, but much, much more. The film foreshadows tech noir: the final confrontation between Quinlan and Vargas takes place in a decayed industrial setting. It’s brutally frank about the bullying nature of American-Mexican relations, the corruption of male cronyism and women’s vulnerability in a patriarchal society. Some neat touches: Mercedes McCambridge plays a frankly lesbian hoodlum. For readers who don’t know her, McCambridge was the voice of the demon in The Exorcist.

Orson Welles is amazing as bloated, uber-corrupt, sixtyish Hank Quinlan; impossible to believe that he was only 43 at the time. Incredible, surreal scenes between him and Marlene Dietrich as his former mistress and the owner of a Mexican bordello. The single 3-minute tracking shot at the start of the film, that follows the convertible with the ticking time bomb, made cinematic history.

sunset-boulevard1. SUNSET BOULEVARD (Billy Wilder) Not just my favorite film noir, but one of my all-time favs period. In the story, a broke screen writer, Joe Gillis (William Holden) is trying escape the repo men. He hides out on the grounds of a mysterious Hollywood mansion inhabited by a forgotten star of the silent movies, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Determined to make a comeback, Norma hires Gillis to rewrite her awful screenplay. Gillis figures it’s easy money, so he agrees, but gradually he becomes Norma’s boy-toy. When he decides to escape, well, guess what happens.

Like all great films, Sunset Boulevard is much more than its gripping story. It’s about the tragedy of vanity and delusion – and the price paid by enablers. It’s also about the cost of refusing to accept change and abandoning your self-worth for easy money.

Gloria Swanson gives a legendary performance as Norma Desmond as does Erich von Stronheim portraying Max, her ex-husband who works as her butler. (Sick or what?) Wonderful gothic sets. Who can forget the image of the dead chimpanzee’s funeral or the rats in the dry swimming pool?

Billy Wilder broke several Hollywood conventions: many celebrities played themselves ( Buster Keaton, Cecil B. DeMille) and the narrator is a dead man. Truly one of the most haunting and satisfying endings in the movies when Norma walks into the camera for her close-up.



My latest book contains nine noir and dark comedy stories. It includes the Arthur Ellis novella finalist, Glow Grass, Bony Pete winner, “The Lizard” and Derringer runner-up, “The Ultimate Mystery”. The Kindle and print editions will be available on Amazon this week. The print edition will be on sale at selected bookstores in November, 2016.



A critically acclaimed thriller, Windigo Fire, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award and a Huffington Post Book for Book Clubs Selection.

Danny Bluestone, a young native Canadian, overeducated and underemployed, has holed up in his hometown of Red Dog Lake in Northern Ontario. Fighting boredom while working as a camp counsellor at a children’s camp, he plays the role of native guide for an illegal bear hunt, organized by Santa, a shady Australian who runs the local highway attraction, Santa’s Fish Camp. He flies out to a remote hunting camp in the bush and wakes up to find all the hunters murdered, all but one, an enigmatic American. The two must team up to survive the wilderness, the killers and the Windigo, a spirit evil unleashed by the killing of the bear.

This book is the first in a series featuring Danny Bluestone and the many characters in Red Dog Lake where the favorite pastime is karaoke strip night!



madeleine-2M. H. Callway is a writer to watch – Margaret Cannon, Crime Fiction Reviewer, The Globe and Mail

M. H. Callway is an award-winning crime fiction writer. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Windigo Fire (Seraphim Editions) was a finalist for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award.

Madeleine’s short stories have been published in several anthologies and magazines. Many have won or been short-listed for major awards such as the Derringer and the Bony Pete. In 2016, her novella, Glow Grass, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award.

Madeleine blogs regularly on her website about street art and weird encounters (Surreal Trapdoor), books and bookstores (Eat this Book) and wonderful people in her life (Cyber Café). Visit her at

In 2013, she founded the Mesdames of Mayhem, a group of 15 established Canadian women crime writers. Readers can enjoy their stories in the anthologies: Thirteen, 13 O’clock and 13 Claws. Visit the Mesdames at

Madeleine is a longstanding member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime. An avid cyclist, runner and downhill skier, she has participated in the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer every year since 2008. She and her husband share their Victorian home with a spoiled cat.

Where to find M.H. Callway…

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Happy Thanksgiving!

So many wonderful quotations and poems about gratitude. This short passage from Melody Beattie is one of my favorites.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.