Cover Reveal & Excerpt: The Gene Police

Gene Police Cover With Blurb

The Gene Police
Elliott D. Light
Bancroft Press, May 2018

Before the words “white supremacy” filled the airways, before we learned of American Nazis and the alt-right, before there was a Muslim ban, and before we considered building a wall or knew what DACA stands for, there was eugenics—a pseudo-science that promoted the belief that a race could be improved by controlling who was allowed to mate with whom.

It was eugenics that compelled white doctors to inform Carl and Betty Langard that their new born baby had died. And it is the cruelest of circumstances—the murder of Jennifer Rice—that fifty years later leads Shep Harrington to search for Baby Langard.

As Shep soon learns, the quest brings him to the top of a slippery slope with an ill-defined edge. Question begets question, and the slide down the slope proves inevitable: What happened to the baby? Who took it? Why was he taken? And who killed Jennifer Rice?

When Shep learns that Baby Langard was born at a hospital run by Alton Nichols, a famous Virginia eugenicist, he is drawn into the dark history of the American eugenics movement and its proponents—the so-called “gene police.”

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Excerpt from The Gene Police 
Read more on the author’s website!

I handed the photos back to Reggie. “Let me see if I have this straight. All you want us to do is to ask the Residents if they remember anyone taking pictures at the poor farm or if they saw a woman with a baby.”

“That’s all,” replied Reggie.

“What if Jennifer Rice took the pictures of the poor farm?” asked Robbie. “What if she was the one with the baby?”

Reggie shook his head. “I don’t know. I just need to understand why my cousin’s DNA was found at the house where she died. Where that leads is anyone’s guess.”

We sat quietly for a moment.

“What a mess,” said Robbie. She glanced at me, then at Reggie. “I think we can ask a few questions.”

I can’t explain why those words excited me, but I did my best not to show it.

With the favor asked and granted, Reggie stood up. “Thank you. Some police reports, the photographs, and a CD of scanned versions are in the folder.”

“Promise me you won’t speak with Detective Hunter or the prosecutor without speaking with us first,” I said.

Reggie agreed and left.

Robbie was quiet for a few moments, her attention focused again on the pictures. She showed me the photo of the boy on the pile of bones. “Can you, for an instant, imagine what that was like? I can’t. I can’t imagine people doing this to other people.” She shook her head. “You can’t help but wonder why more wasn’t done to stop it.” She picked up the photograph of the woman with the baby. “Why would the hospital tell Reggie’s aunt that her baby died if he didn’t?”

“It’s a mystery,” I said.

“You don’t think his cousin was actually murdered?”

I shrugged. “I have no reason to think so. If you’re asking me if I believe that something like that might have happened, my answer is yes. The history we’re taught was written by our parents and grandparents, all of whom were white. I doubt they were keen on sharing their generation’s dirty laundry with their kids.”

“Sounds like something you learned in prison,” she said.

“Three years of mostly free time surrounded by some smart, educated inmates can open your eyes to the way the world is,” I said.

Robbie grimaced, then tossed the pictures on the table. “I know you’re worried about Reggie. But you can’t get caught up in the murder of that woman. You just can’t. I don’t want you to, and none of your friends want you to. We can talk to the Residents about the pictures, see what they remember, and tell Reggie what we learn. I don’t see how that can hurt anything, but that’s all.”

I smiled at her. “No,” I said confidently. “That can’t hurt.”

Read more on the author’s website!


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Guest Post & Review: The Frenchman

Frenchman-ebook-cover
Lise McClendon. Thalia Press, $15, 294p. ISBN 9781548691257.

In this 5th installment of the Bennett Sisters Mysteries (beginning with Blackbird Fly), attorney Merle Bennett goes to France for an extended stay to drink in the essence of la France Profonde and write her own novel.

But the countryside is not as tranquil as she’d hoped it would be. A missing Frenchman, a sinister one, an elderly one, a thieving one, and a vandalizing one, all conspire to turn Merle’s sojourn of reflection into a nightmare of worry. Where is Pascal, her French boyfriend? Who is the man with the terrible scar? Why is someone spray-painting her little stone house in the Dordogne? And will her novel about the French Revolution (snippets of which are included) give her a soupon of delight or a frisson of danger?


From the Author: What my characters have shown me as they’ve grown

As I launch the fifth installment in the Bennett Sisters Mystery series it occurs to me that one of the joys of writing a long series is the chance to really dig deep into the personalities of the characters. Although I originally conceived of the series as linked stand-alones about each of the five sisters, the first book, Blackbird Fly, centered on the middle sister, Merle. When I eventually continued the series, I continued Merle’s journey of self-discovery after the sudden death of her husband. It just made sense that one summer sojourn in France wouldn’t cure all her problems, lovely as France might be.Frenchman - Lise McClendon

So Merle has a Frenchman. Initially, like Merle, I didn’t see how a long-distance relationship with a man who lived across an ocean would work. How could she work in New York City and Pascal work all over France’s wine country and they continue a romance? Because, although I didn’t write the series as a romance, women have love affairs— have you noticed? And they like to read about them. Merle’s affair with Pascal might have just been a fling, a curative, that first summer. But as the series goes along it’s obvious that Pascal thinks of it as something more. Although Merle isn’t sure what he thinks— he’s a Frenchman and you know how they are— her feelings mature, especially in this fifth book.

Their relationship is an underpinning in the novels to intrigue, sisterhood, and the joys and trials of mid-life. The sisters range in age from 40 to 55, or so, and I try to find aspects of women’s lives that are interesting and challenging. Life can be hard but reading about how other women make choices and navigate the pitfalls is helpful and revealing to me, and I hope to readers.

As a writer you never know how readers will react to your characters. Will they think them weak and stupid for their choices? (Yes, I’ve had that review.) Or will they identify with them, cheer for them, hope for them? That’s what I live for, that identification from the reader. I am not an Everywoman myself. I am opinionated and cranky and sometimes not that nice. Also, funny, a good friend, a loving parent— I hope. We all have so many aspects. I see some of myself in each of the five Bennett Sisters. I am a middle sister myself though, that’s why Merle appeals to me.

I recently had a review of Blackbird Fly that made all the writing worthwhile. (I love that readers are still discovering the series.) A reader said “The main character, Merle Bennett, could have been me, though I’m not a lawyer, have never inherited a house in France, and never had her problems. The writing puts you in the book.”

Right there, that’s why I write.

Then, if you love France like I do, the reviewer says that for her, at least, I got something right: “I’ve spent enough time in France to know that Albert, Mme Suchet, and the others in the village who snubbed, helped, or sabotaged Merle are just so … French. The story unfolds just as it should along with Merle’s self-discovery and personal regrets.”

And so Merle’s journey continues in The Frenchman. Who is the Frenchman, you ask? There is of course Pascal, Merle’s Frenchman. But there are many more in this book, policemen and old villagers, young punks and charming neighbors. And in Merle’s novel, chapters of which are included in the novel, there are Frenchmen from the Revolutionary period: farmers and rebels, nobles and royals, villagers and strangers. I had such fun writing Merle’s novel— which will be fleshed out and published separately as well— about a goat-herder who flees the terror in Paris for a farm in the Dordogne. Merle calls it ‘Odette and the Great Fear,’ and it will be available soon as an e-book.

Thanks for the chance to discuss the Bennett Sisters Mysteries. I hope you enjoy reading them!


Review: The Frenchman

Lise McClendon’s The Frenchman is McClendon’s fifth novel in her Bennett Sisters Mysteries series. It is a frame story variation in that Merle, the protagonist, tells a story of her own throughout the mystery.

As McClendon’s story opens, Merle seems to be a bit lost within herself. She’s taking an extended leave from her work as a lawyer in New York in order to go to France and get started on her novel. Merle’s son, Tristan, is growing up and heading off to college this year, and her French boyfriend, Pascal, works a job that frequently keeps them apart for long periods of time and with little communication. Upon arrival in France, Merle finds herself with tangible insecurities as well – her house has been vandalized, and she has need for a vehicle but no knowledge of how to buy.

Meanwhile, Merle begins to write her novel, Odette and the Great Fear, and McClendon includes Merle’s chapters as stand-alone chapters within The Frenchman. Writing acts as Merle’s escape: “It was so comforting to live in another world where the mundane was an afterthought, where pain was just a word, where one had control of all events, and the author was a god.” (Kindle Locations 1356-1357). This comfort is better understood later, when McClendon’s mystery comes to light as Pascal disappears.

The Frenchman is as much a mystery novel as it is an exploration into the personal life of an author. McClendon’s character, Merle, strives to build her own character, Odette, in a seemingly reflected manner of McClendon’s own efforts to dive into Merle’s character. McClendon grants access into how a casual observation can play itself into a piece of detail, and skillfully reveals thought and emotion of her characters to her readers. Merle and Odette’s characters are tied together in a pleasant analogy.

The Frenchman is a delightful stroll through a grove of mystery, with a woven path through a light French countenance that makes for a formidable leisure read.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lise McClendon is the author of fifteen novels of mystery, suspense, and general mayhem plus short stories. Her bestselling Bennett Sisters mystery series began with Blackbird Fly. She also writes thrillers as Rory Tate, the latest of which is Plan X. Her short story is included in this fall’s noir anthology, The Obama Inheritance. Lise lives in Montana.
Visit her website | Subscribe to her mailing list | Follow her on Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Buy the book: on Amazon

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Review: Merle

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Angela Wren. CreateSpace IPP, $10, 208p.  ISBN 9781546811985.

Also a theatre director in Yorkshire and a self-proclaimed Francophile, author Angela Wren presents her second Jacques Forêt mystery, Merle. Like her first Jacques Forêt novel, Messandrierre, Wren sets Merle in a small, French town that soon discovers that murder visits not only Paris.

Formerly a Parisian policeman, Jacques Forêt is now a private investigator who has been commissioned by Vaux Consulting to investigate the possibility of corporate corruption among executives. As Jacques spends time with the employees of Vaux Consulting, he finds that there is more being hidden within Vaux Consulting’s walls than originally suspected. Jacques is quite confident in his investigative skills, however, and isn’t afraid to ask awkward questions to find out what he needs to know; Jacques seemingly begins to upset the wrong person, and receives notes threatening himself and his lover, Beth, who has just decided to move to Merle with Jacques. Before any resolution arrives, corruption spirals into murder, and the lives of people near to Jacques are put into danger.

Wren demonstrates her skill as theater director by fragmenting her plot and rearranging the pieces in a way that opens her novel with an apéritif showing a glimpse of the denouement. Wren keeps Jacques and Beth dimensional with subplots exploring how how serious Jacques and Beth’s relationship is, and how Beth’s hobbies will thrive in Merle. Wren’s astute attention to detail of French culture, architecture, and geography keeps her writing relevant and pleasant.

Packed with continuing complications to intensify the final unraveling, Merle is a thrilling read about authority, corruption, and the power of secrets to deprave a genial French town.