Larry Enright

Larry Enright

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Author Spotlight - Libby Fischer Hellmann

I'd like to spotlight today a very accomplished and highly acclaimed author, Libby Fischer Hellman.
Her most recent work, Set the Night on Fire has been described by Foreword Magazine as “a brilliantly-paced thriller, transitioning seamlessly from modern-day Chicago to the late '60s. First-rate characterization...Best to start early in the day, as it is easy to stay up all night reading it."

Libby is a transplant from Washington, D.C., where, she says, "When you're sitting around the dinner table gossiping about the neighbors, you're talking politics." Armed with a Masters Degree in Film Production from New York University, and a BA in history from the University of Pennsylvania, she started her career in broadcast news. She began as an assistant film editor at NBC News in New York, but moved back to DC where she worked with Robin McNeil and Jim Lehrer at N-PACT, the public affairs production arm of PBS. When Watergate broke, she was re-trained as an assistant director and helped produce PBS's night-time broadcasts of the hearings.

In 1978, she moved to Chicago (which would later be the backdrop of her novels) in order to work at Burson-Marsteller, the large public relations firm, staying until 1985 when she founded Fischer Hellmann Communications. Currently, when not writing, she conducts speaker training programs in platform speaking, presentation skills, media training, and crisis communications. Additionally, Libby also writes and produces videos.

With the release of Set the Night on Fire, Libby will have published seven novels by the end of 2010. About her fifth novel, Easy Innocence, the Chicago Tribune said, "There's a new no-nonsense detective in town... Tough and smart enough to give even the legendary V.I. Warshawski a run for her money." They were referring to Georgia Davis, Libby Hellmann's PI protagonist in the thriller. Davis returned, paired with amateur sleuth Ellie Foreman, in Hellmann's sixth crime fiction thriller, Doubleback (2009), which was selected as a Great Lakes Booksellers' Association "2009 Great Read."

The Georgia Davis series was a spin-off of Hellmann's Ellie Foreman series, which debuted in 2002 with An Eye For Murder. Publishers Weekly called it a "masterful blend of politics, history, and suspense," and it was nominated for several awards. There are four books in the Ellie Foreman series, which Libby says is a cross between "'Desperate Housewives' and '24.'"

Libby also edited a highly acclaimed crime fiction anthology, Chicago Blues (October, 2007). In May 2010, she published an e-collection of her own short stories called Nice Girl Does Noir. Set the Night on Fire, in December 2010, is a standalone thriller that goes back, in part, to the late Sixties in Chicago.

In 2005-2006 she was the National President of Sisters in Crime, a 3,400-plus member organization committed to strengthening the voice of female mystery writers. She also blogs with "The Outfit Collective" at

Twitter @libbyfh

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recipe for Disaster - Sample Sunday 03/27/2011

I love Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, so much so that I am sharing my favorite oatmeal raisin cookie recipe with you. It was a family secret, but Quaker Oats also had the same recipe on their Oatmeal box. Fancy that. What they don't have is Tom Ryan's method of making them. So, here goes...

“Why should I?” Tom Ryan was twelve, not quite a teenager, but with every bit a teenage mentality.
His mother was the patient sort. How could she not be? Twelve years of enduring Tom was enough to inspire the patience of Job or the anger of Zeus, and she was more the Job type.
      “Don’t you like Oatmeal Raisin Cookies?”
“Yeah, so?”
“Making them is half the fun, I think.” Helen continued to get the ingredients together while Tom sulked. He had been grounded for throwing mud balls at little kids getting off the school bus and she was desperately trying to do more than just send him to his room. That would have been asking for even more trouble.
“How can work be half the fun, Mom? Wouldn’t play be all the fun? That doesn’t leave half for anything. It’s mathematically impossible.” When Tom tried logic like that with his father, it almost always failed miserably. With his mother, he sometimes had more luck. Not this time.
“Just a sec, dear. Let me make sure I have all the cookie ingredients first. Can you help me? I’ll read them off and you make sure they’re all there by moving the ingredient from the table to the counter. Okay?”
“We’ll time ourselves. If we can do it in under a minute, we get the gold!”
A challenge. Tom was always a sucker for a challenge. He smiled. “You’re on.”
“Don’t worry about the amounts, just move the container. Okay? Ready, set, go!”
Helen read and Tom raced:

4  tablespoons (1/2 stick) margarine, softened
2  tablespoons heat-stable sugar substitute equal to 3 tablespoons sugar
1/4  cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3/4  cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4  cup frozen unsweetened apple juice concentrate (thawed)
1  teaspoon vanilla
1  cup all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon salt (optional)
1-1/2  cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1/3  cup raisins, chopped

“Done!” she threw her hands up high.
“Done!” Tom shrieked. “Fifty-three seconds. A new world record for Team Ryan! Yeah, yeah,” he roared into cupped, pretend-crowd-noise hands.
Helen clapped while Tom did his victory dance.
“What’s next?” he asked.
“Well, first let’s make sure I pre-heated the oven to 350°F.”
Tom checked the range. “Check!”
“Great! Now you rub this stick of butter around on this cookie tray to grease it up.”
“Can I pretend it’s Frankie Marx’s face?”
“Well,” Helen thought. “I'd like to think of it more like making a skating rink all slippy so we can iceskate on it.”
Tom’s interest level immediately fell. Helen knew that look.
“But!” she added, “Now comes the gushy, icky part where we mix everything in a big bowl and slosh it around like mud pies!”
“But the kind you eat, not the kind you throw. Trust me. These will taste way too good to throw at little kids. Let me read this and you follow along.”
In large bowl, beat margarine and sweetener or sugar until creamy. Add egg substitute; beat well. Add applesauce, apple juice concentrate and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.”
“And be very careful not to throw this tasty mix at anyone littler than you.”
Tom followed all the instructions until this last one. Suspicion was in his eyes. “It doesn’t say that.”
“Yuh huh.”
“Nuh huh.”
“Does, too.”
“Does not.”
“Prove it!” Tom folded his arms across his chest and tapped his foot.
Helen slammed the book shut. “Oh! I forgot to mention! Now we have to do a bombing run!”
“You know, a bombing run? We make little balls out of the mix and pretend we are bombing the cookie sheet. But the spacing is crucial. We have to make sure we bomb the entire sheet or our mission is a failure.”
“Where did you learn tactics like that?”
Helen just smiled. “I wasn’t asleep all that time you boys watched Combat! you know.”
It took fifteen minutes of bombing and strafing and zooming and circling, but the cookie sheet was finally covered to Tom’s liking.
Helen popped the sheet into the oven and they waited. She checked them after ten minutes to see if they were firm to the touch and lightly golden brown, but they ended up waiting the full fifteen minutes. Tom went on and on about expanding the campaign to include meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes while he and his Mom cleaned up the mess.
When the clean-up was done and the cookies were out of the oven, they sat down to a glass of milk and a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies and talked about the things a twelve-year old and his mother talk about in precious moments like these — things like stopping the invasion of caterpillars from the woods next to their house.


Like? Here are some other recipes from writers that you might enjoy!

Linda Prather "Food To Die Smiling For"
Sibel Hodge  "Discover the recipe for a Chocolate Orgasm!"
Mel Comley
Mira Kolar   Brown Magic Mushrooms – Killer Omlette « mirabooks and Eastern Promise – Baklava
Betty Carlton  "Mine Alone"  See what Penelope cooks for her captor
Traci Hohenstein  Firehouse Chili recipe from novel BURN OUT
Thea Atkinson Lobster Dip
Tania Tirraoro  Asparagus, Watercress and Pan Roasted Cherry Tomato Risotto

Friday, March 18, 2011

Confessions - please consider this one.

"Confessions" is a novel by an accomplished writer named Ryne Douglas Pearson. You may have seen his movie "Knowing," a 2009 Nicolas Cage film that is one of my favorites. You may also have seen "Mercury Rising" which was based on his book "Simple Simon." I have read a few other of his works and his writing is really special. I encourage you all to consider the small investment of time and money required on your part for the fantastic return of intellectual enjoyment and reading pleasure from reading his novels. Here is description of "Confessions" the first chapter of which is now included in "Four Years from Home" as a bonus!

A call in the dead of night summons Father Michael Jerome to a suburban Chicago hospital—a police officer has been shot. As department chaplain, Michael arrives to find that the officer will survive.
The same cannot be said for his assailant, who lays mortally wounded on a gurney, begging for absolution for some past sin. Offering last rites to the dying man, Michael hears his final confession and is shaken by the admission of a crime committed five years earlier.
A murder that shattered his family.
Struggling with the constraints of his faith, Michael moves cautiously as he tries to identify others involved in the vicious killing. But every secret he uncovers leads him further down a path where it becomes clear that someone is desperate for the past to stay buried.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sample Sunday 03/13/2011

This is a sample from a novel in progress that I am hoping to get through another draft of before too long. No context, no preface, just the sample...

Liam was unable to continue his part in the Mass after baring his soul’s darkest doubts. He hurried to the sacristy, removed his robes, and left the church. It was a bitter, windy day outside and gray storm clouds were fast pushing the blue sky out to sea. Liam buttoned up his black coat and walked west across Gray’s Ferry Avenue entering the industrial area along the river. The brown death of empty factory buildings, abandoned cars, and man’s detritus felt somehow comforting to his empty heart. He had spoken of love, of God’s love, and he had spoken of faith in a God who always seemed to be looking away from them, a God who had allowed such horrible evil to prevail. Words seemed so shallow. Liam could not breathe.
     There was a concrete bench by the river that seemed out of place amid the brownscape, as if in some former time people had thought that coming to this spot and sitting facing the river would be desirable. Perhaps it was. Perhaps in times like these. Liam sat on the bench and stared across the river.

     Somewhere over there his two brothers were enjoying their Sunday lunch after Mass, totally unaware and uncaring of the tragedy of life in the old neighborhood. And somewhere behind him was the killer that the God of Abraham would not stop, could not stop, because He had given man the one gift that would not allow Him to stop it — free will.