Review & Giveaway: Backstabbing in Beaujolais by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen

Backstabbing in Beaujolais

Release date: November 19, 2015
at Le French Book
140 pages
ISBN: 9781939474537

Website | Goodreads

About Backstabbing in Beaujolais

A business magnate calls on wine expert Benjamin Cooker to kickstart his new wine business in Beaujolais, sparking bitter rivalries. Can the Winemaker Detective and his assistant keep calculating real estate agents, taciturn winegrowers, dubious wine merchants and suspicious deaths from delaying delivery of the world-famous Beaujolais Nouveau?

My Review

The numerous players with their severely flawed characters mixed with their unscrupulous entanglements made for a riveting backdrop to an exuberant mystery.

Cooker showed his savvy side by not allowing Guillaume Périthiard to control or manipulate him due to their professional arrangement. I like the control/power struggle hanging in the air between these two accomplished and intelligent men. The vast personalities and circumstances of the characters really made the narrative. Quillebaud’s death provided a stealth twist, throwing this amateur sleuth off course, well done.

Cooker and Virgile’s witty banter always entertain. Food, wine, literature and art served with a clever mystery always leave me craving more from the twosome of Alaux and Balen. As always I enjoy receiving a delicious education in food and wine, in this instance specifically the regional cuisine of Lyon and Beaujolais wine.

Riveting from the first page as the mystery simmers until it is smartly deduced. Alaux and Balen provide yet another well crafted mystery with renaissance man Cooker and his trusted charming acolyte Virgile.



Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, wine lover and music lover respectively, came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series while sharing a meal, with a bottle of Château Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose.


Anne Trager loves France so much she has lived there for 27 years and just can’t seem to leave. What keeps her there is a uniquely French mix of pleasure seeking and creativity. Well, that and the wine. In 2011, she woke up one morning and said, “I just can’t stand it anymore. There are way too many good books being written in France not reaching a broader audience.” That’s when she founded Le French Book to translate some of those books into English. The company’s motto is “If we love it, we translate it,” and Anne loves crime fiction, mysteries and detective novels.


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Interview: Harry Patz Jr., author of The Naive Guys

NaiveGuysPaperback.inddThe Discerning Reader extends a warm welcome to Harry Patz Jr. Thank you for joining The Discerning Reader Harry.

To begin, can you tell us about yourself and your novel, The Naive Guys

Thanks so much for reaching out, Melinda!

I’ve been in the tech industry for over twenty-years with time at Microsoft and a mobile marketing firm, Velti. A part of me has always been a writer, going back to an editorial role on the literary magazine in high school and the thousands of emails, presentations and briefs I’ve written in corporate America.

I finally brought to life all these thoughts and observations that have been in my head for years and completed my novel, The Naive Guys. It’s part coming-of-age, part historical fiction seen through the eyes of Mark Amici, a recent college graduate. It’s set in New York in the early 1990s, as he meanders his way through life, love and work.

What is Mark Amici up to presently?

Well, in the alternative universe where he lives (likely a third sequel!), he’s probably middle-aged and celebrating the New York Mets playoff success by taking his wife and five children to Mass to thank God, or celebrating in a different manner on a three-day bender in Las Vegas with Pete and Sally (Kostas having disappeared again). Possibly he’s doing both!

If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?

This is a good, but tough question:) I essentially wrote the first four or so chapters, then put it down for eighteen months, then picked it up again and created a new “first” chapter, due to some other career commitments. While there was growth for me as a writer during this period, I would have probably started the whole project sooner and then tried to do it without that long break.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

On the criticism side, some may not care for the occasional ribald actions of Mark and company. On the positive side, from both reviews and direct feedback, there is a huge outpouring of affection for Mark from female readers, who really identify with him, his family and friends, his challenges and his story. Honestly, I would not have predicted those reactions.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

It’s for everybody! Actually it’s not. I believe though that anyone who has gone through that transitional period of graduating college and then trying to find their way in the world will appreciate it and identify with it…the awkwardness, the frustration, the highs and lows of love and work, family and friends. Those who “came-of-age” in that period will be reminded of the signposts of that era, and the next generation or two after that will like to read it to see what Mom and Dad (maybe) were up to. If you’re a student or participant of corporate bureaucracy, or possibly spent some time in sales and the tech industry, you’ll be rewarded with some smiles. And anyone who likes to laugh, you’ll love this story!

Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

I am actually a modest person by nature, so the racy scenes are challenging for me. But as the writer/creator, you have to make sure you are being true to the story and the characters, and relate it as you believe it would happen. I noted how Stephen King essentially said, “you have to write for yourself.” So even if I felt squeamish, if it was germane to the story, I worked my way through it.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

At least this writer, like I would imagine others, write (some of) what they know. But I could not write in any depth about my wife and daughters. It’s too personal.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I absolutely read them, and always try to thank anyone who takes the time to provide written feedback, good or bad. I aspire, but do not always succeed, in trying not to get to high or low when consuming them. But writing can be a very personal craft, so it’s hard not to take it personally. My advice, which I am giving to myself, says the more one writes, the better one will be able to handle the criticism. It’s simply part of the deal.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Part of the challenge of this question is that the actors I would recommend keep getting too old to play these parts! Nevertheless, for the core “Naive Guys,” I have a , darker-haired and less built Matt Damon play Mark Amici; I always see him as a thinking man’s actor. For Sally, perhaps Robert Pattinson from “Twilight” and for Pete perhaps Emile Hirsch or Channing Tatum. Kostas is a tough one for me; perhaps a younger John Stamos (with long hair!)?

What literary character is most like you?

I don’t know if he is that much like me, but I strongly identify with Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe from his four novels, including The Sportswriter. He’s a gebtleman who is always observing everything around him, and often lost in hos own thoughts.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

I get asked often about the title, how much is inspired from my own life, and why I named the company “Fishsoft,” but no one has asked about my favorite character, and why.

I love them all, but Uncle Frankie is absolutely my favorite. And the reason is: the arc of his storyline went in ways I could have never imagined when I first started writing the novel. From the writer’s perspective, he “grew” so much more than I ever thought possible.

What can we expect from you in the future?

These characters lived in my head for such a long-time; I am taking a needed break from them. Yet, they still communicate to me at different times and unexpected ways! At some point there will be at least one sequel, taking place some years after the story ends in 1994.

I continue to participate with my Writer’s Group in Nantucket monthly, and for those interested our anthology collection, The Moving Pen: A Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group Anthology is on Amazon.

Thanks again for hosting me, Melinda. I enjoyed the conversation!

About Harry Patz Jr.8509321

Harry has been a participant of the Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group since October, 2013. He contributed a short story, “Offseason” for the group’s published anthology collection, The Moving Pen: A Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group Anthology, published in June, 2014.

Harry is president of Gondolin Advisors LLC, providing strategic advisory services to Communications, Media and Technology firms. He is a 20-year veteran of the tech and media industries, with executive positions at Microsoft Corporation and Velti. Harry holds an MBA from The Johnson School at Cornell University and a BS in Management from Boston College. He resides in Westchester, NY.

Connect with Harry: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Review: The Naive Guys: A Memoir of Friendship, Love and Tech in the Early 1990s by Harry Patz Jr.


A hysterical yet poignant coming-of-age novel. Mark Amici embarks on a challenging journey through the postcollege world, where he struggles to emerge from his sheltered upbringing to a life of sex, love, friendship, and career success. Fighting through the bad economy of 1991, Mark takes an entry-level sales role at a growing tech company, Fishsoft, at the dawn of the Internet Age.

A nostalgic coming of age story of recent college graduate Mark Amici.

It was great reading a coming of age store of a male, I was hesitant at first thinking it would be an Animal House affair but it was far from it. Sure I was submerged into the depths of the male world, however it wasn’t hard to stomach.

Mark Amici is an all around great guy – ambitious employee, dutiful son, loyal friend and a great potential romantic partner. He’s surprisingly mature and grounded for his age. He’s classy, honest and willing to listen to others, he’s completely endearing.

His persistence in securing employment, and a girlfriend I found relatable and humorous. He has a great attitude and takes his licks and quickly moves on. The book has many tender moments along with humors instances.

I was well established in the early nineties, however I did bond with Mark in a few ways. Given his personality of over analyzing and holding on to the past somewhat limited his growth which is the polar opposite of myself. Nonetheless reading of Mark’s journey was enjoyable. No doubt this young man has a bright future ahead. As the story progresses Mark and his friends evolve and move on as life, career, choices pave the way for independence, opportunities and establishment.

Wasn’t thrilled with the heavy hand in sports, however, it’s what most men enjoy so I was a sport about it. I also felt it could have been shorter yet it was a satisfactory read.

Patz smartly writes of a young adult venturing out into the big bad world as he navigates his way in career, love, life and family. Revisiting the pre-tech days was a blast, NSM’s, Clinton presidency, brought many smiles to this reader.

About Harry Patz Jr.8509321

Harry has been a participant of the Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group since October, 2013. He contributed a short story, “Offseason” for the group’s published anthology collection, The Moving Pen: A Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group Anthology, published in June, 2014.

Harry is president of Gondolin Advisors LLC, providing strategic advisory services to Communications, Media and Technology firms. He is a 20-year veteran of the tech and media industries, with executive positions at Microsoft Corporation and Velti. Harry holds an MBA from The Johnson School at Cornell University and a BS in Management from Boston College. He resides in Westchester, NY.

Connect with Harry: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Paperback, First, 452 pages
Published August 29th 2014 by Alophie Press, imprint of Gondolin Advisors LLC
ISBN13: 9780990539315

Interview: Corban Addison, author of The Tears of Dark Water

25087464The Discerning Reader extends a warm welcome to Corban Addison. Thank you for joining The Discerning Reader Corban.

To begin, can you tell us about yourself and your novel, The Tears of Dark Water?

I’m an attorney, a human rights activist, and a novelist. I write stories that are fast-paced and suspenseful, yet also nuanced and deeply human. They’re set on the global stage, and they tackle issues of international injustice. My first two novels, A Walk Across the Sun and The Garden of Burning Sand, were international bestsellers and published in over 20 countries. The Tears of Dark Water is my third novel, and the one closest to my heart. Depending on where you stand, you’re going to see it differently. Thriller readers will call it a thriller about hostage-taking on the high seas. Readers of international fiction will call it a story about Somalia and the Somali people and the need for cross-cultural understanding. Readers of family dramas will call it a story about three families—two American and one Somali—struggling to cope with the intensely personal fallout of an international tragedy. It is all of those things.

What inspired you to write a novel set at sea? What made you choose the Indian Ocean and piracy?

In February, 2011, the sailing yacht SV Quest was hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman. Four American sailors were taken hostage. The American government responded with overwhelming force, sending Navy ships and SEALs and an FBI negotiator to the scene. Four days later, all of the hostages were dead and the pirates were being extradited to the U.S. to stand trial for murder. The story of the Quest was the inspiration for The Tears of Dark Water. I wanted to understand how things could have gone so badly wrong. I also wanted to explore the emotion dimensions of a tragedy with such profound international implications. I wanted to know what would motivate a pirate to take to the seas. I wanted to know what it would feel like to be a hostage, to be the family member of a hostage, to be the negotiator trying to free the hostages, to be the Navy captain, to be a Navy SEAL. I did a tremendous amount of research and interviews to get the story right, including landing on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, going to Somalia under guard, and getting to know Somalis in the U.S. and abroad. The Tears of Dark Water is not a fictionalized retelling of the Quest incident. It is a product of my imagination. But that incident played a large role in inspiring the story.

What do you want readers to take away from The Tears of Dark Water?

One of my goals in writing my books is to inspire empathy in my readers—empathy for people different from them, people from different places in the world, people who speak a different language and have different cultural and religious beliefs, people who are poor and marginalized and who we in the rich world don’t have occasion to think about most of the time. In The Tears of Dark Water, I worked very hard to create an honest, fair, and balanced depiction of modern Somalia, in all its beauty and tragedy, and to depict Somalis charitably, as human beings, without sugarcoating the challenges their country faces. I also worked very hard to depict their religion—Islam—in a nuanced way that reveals both the ordinary piety of the vast majority of Muslims in the world and the grievous excesses of the radicals who perpetrate violence against humanity—more often wounding their own brethren than anyone else. I hope my readers will see that there are as many sides to every story as there are characters in it, and that being human in the world requires that we take the time to understand each other, despite our many differences, even if we don’t ultimately agree with each other.

What genres do you gravitate toward in your personal reading?

When I get time to read novels (which doesn’t happen as often as I like due to my research and writing schedule), I prefer books that balance strong storytelling with rich characterization and elegant writing. Books like All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Last Child by John Hart, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

Can you tell us a bit about your next novel?

I’m currently working on my fourth novel, which deals with labor abuse and injustice inside a global corporation and in the heart of the global economy. It’s a book I’m really passionate about, and I’m having a blast writing it.

You are a supporter of international justice causes. How can your audience help you promote justice around the world?

The first thing anyone can do is care about the issues I write about. All of us are busy people. We all have limited amounts of time and money. But caring goes a long way, and, as I said, inspiring empathy in my readers is my primary goal as an author. Beyond that, I’ve put resources on my website that can help readers think more deeply about the issues I write about, and find ways to get involved more concretely in combatting injustice around the world.

About Corban Addison


Corban Addison holds degrees in law and engineering from the University of Virginia and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. An attorney, activist, and world traveler, he is a supporter of numerous causes, including the abolition of modern slavery, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS. He lives with his wife and two children in Virginia.

Connect with Corban: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review & Giveaway: Natchez Burning (Penn Cage #4) by Greg Iles


Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor is accused of murdering Viola Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past—into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Now Penn must follow a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to one undeniable fact: no one—black or white, young or old, brave or not—is ever truly safe.

An exploration into the fragile, unbreakable relationship of father and son as well as our perception vs the actuality of how well we know our parents when harbored secrets and history threaten to reveal more than we ever imagined.

I enjoyed Penn, he’s attempting to figure out who his father is with great trepidation. Hesitantly Penn plunges in and starts and stalls as startling information about his father comes to light, mustering strength Penn digs deeper and deeper. You can understand Penn’s concern, his surprise, simultaneously struggling with disappointment and hope as he is seeing his father differently than his original perception lead him to believe.

Although I am a Penn fan there are so many others equally as captivating. Henry Sexton, Albert Norris and Caitlin Masters. Royal, Knox, Thornton evil doers you can’t wait to see pay for their heinous misdeeds.

As much as I found myself absorbed in the story, I had to pause on several occasions. The brutality was disturbing, a sad stain in history for our country, you find yourself reflecting on the past and present questioning how much has changed and how far we still have to go. The violence inflicted was downright depressing forcing me to close the book until my emotions were in check before I could continue. Iles is one masterful storyteller, obvious from the effect he produced upon me. Powerful scenes, disgusting people, innocents suffered.

Iles creates an amazing mystery with loads of historical references, the setting pulls you into the south and its environs and culture. You will not be bored, rather you will find yourself enthralled with the characters and all that’s unearthed. The ending is perfect, you’ll want to continue with the trilogy to see where Iles takes us as well as his memorable characters in the incredible journey. I rarely read series, this is clearly an exception as I anxiously await the next installment.


Enter to win 1 of 2 paperback copies of Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, please complete the giveaway form below. US residents only. Ends 10/19/15


Hardcover, 791 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by William Morrow (first published 2014)
ISBN13: 9780062311078

Review & Giveaway: Love and Other Wounds: Stories by Jordan Harper


A blistering debut collection that unsparingly confronts the extreme, brutal parts of the human heart.

Denizens of the shadows who live outside the law—from the desolate meth labs of the Ozark Mountains to the dog-fighting rings of Detroit to the lavish Los Angeles mansions of the rich and famous—the characters in Love and Other Wounds all thirst for something seemingly just beyond their reach. Some are on the run, pursued by the law or propelled relentlessly forward by a dangerous past that is disturbingly close. Others are searching for a semblance of peace and stability, and even love, in a fractured world defined by seething violence and ruthless desperation. All are bruised, pushed to their breaking point and beyond, driven to extremes they never imagined.

OUTSTANDING collection of short stories. I love to sink my teeth into exceptionally written hardboiled, noir, gritty masterpieces and I was more than fulfilled with Jordan Harper’s stellar writing talent.

Harper manipulates language shaping and forming it into amazing prose. His creativity cannot be denied. His style possesses a beautiful brutal in your face slap, and at other moments it’s stark, smooth and melodic, highly detailed and visual as well. EVERY story in this collection is amazing with its various substance.

Character development, hardcore narratives, revisiting characters from previous stories in the collection, repeating characters, each dealing with violence in their individual circumstances. Jordan captures the required ingredients to craft powerful stories and characters. I anxiously await more from this gifted writer, Jordan’s abilities should be highly noted. Incredible writing and reading!

A man runs away from his grave and into a maelstrom of bullets and fire.

A Hollywood fixer finds love over the corpse of a dead celebrity.

A morbidly obese woman imagines a new life with the jewel thief who is scheming to rob the store where she works.

A man earns the name “Mad Dog” and lives to regret it.

Crime spree get coupling with a helluva ending.

Supreme sacrifice for vengeance gone wrong, halting. Last story, perfect ending to the collection.

 About Jordan HarperIMG_4284

 Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He’s worked as an ad man, a rock critic and a teevee writer. He is the former music editor of St. Louis’s Riverfront Times and a former critic for Village Voice Media. He currently lives in Los Angeles and writes for The Mentalist and Gotham.

Jordan collects trash fiction, true crime books and how-to manuals for dirty deeds.

Connect with Jordan: Facebook | Twitter


Enter to win a copy of Love and Other Wounds by Jordan Harper, please complete the giveaway form below. US residents only. Ends 10/16/15

Interview: Austin Williams, author of Blind Shuffle: A Rusty Diamond Novel

The Discerning Reader extends a warm welcome to Austin Williams. Thank you for joining The Discerning Reader Austin.


Austin Williams is the author of The Rusty Diamond Series of crime thrillers published by Diversion Books. The second novel in the series, Blind Shuffle, will be released in October 2015.

Other books by Williams include the cult suspense novels Crimson Orgy and The Platinum Loop. He is the co-author (with Erik Quisling) of Straight Whisky: A Living History of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Sunset Strip.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Connect with Austin: Twitter | Goodreads

To begin, can you tell us about yourself and your novel, BLIND SHUFFLE?

Blind Shuffle is the second of three planned novels featuring the character Rusty Diamond. A washed-up Vegas magician who reinvents himself as an amateur sleuth, Rusty uses the tools of his former trade to combat a broad range of criminal elements. This book sees him returning to New Orleans, the city where he first learned magic, and embarking on a desperate search for a missing woman. Each Rusty Diamond book is written as a stand-alone thriller that does not require any familiarity with the previous novels, through readers who take the books in order may notice certain instances of continuity that add to the larger narrative. With a third book now in the works, it remains to be seen if the series will stop there or continue onward. I’d certainly be willing to come back for a fourth, should the opportunity present itself. Prior to starting the Rusty Diamond series with Misdirection in 2014, I wrote several novels and one nonfictional book detailingthe live music scene on L.A.’s famed Sunset Strip.

Do you write an outline before every book you write?

Not always but for this series of books, yes. With mysteries and/or thrillers, the plotting is obviously crucial so I find it helpful to outline the story in advance before starting a fleshed-out first draft. With some other books I’ve written, a more improvisational style of writing has worked out just fine. The latter approach can actually be more fun, but it’s not always practical.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t consciously insert a message or moral into my books, and as a reader I don’t respond well to anything that resembles preaching in a work of fiction. Certain themes are bound to arise in the development of any story, and they might manifest in the finished novel in ways I didn’t anticipate. It should always be up to the reader or the audience to decipher meaning in any story, regardless of the medium in which it’s told. Ultimately, the reader should play an active role in defining what a story is really about.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

There’s no one individual I would point to a mentor, but a number of fine writers possess certain attributes I’d like to emulate. For crisp, lifelife dialogue, Elmore Leonard is an obvious master. For tight plotting and sustained tension, Ira Levin makes it look easy even though it’s not. For sheer mastery of language, Martin Amis is pretty much unsurpassed. And for brutally honest humor about aspects of the human condition that many writers would choose not to dwell on, there’s no one like Bukowski.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Sloan Archer is a relatively new writer who has made a strong impression on me. She tends to work in the horror genre, and has a tremendous knack for bringing unexpected humor and emotion to her stories. A lot of horror writers focus solely on building a sense of dread and delivering lurid shocks without developing the kind of fully realized characters readers need to make an emotional investment in the tale. Archer achieves a level of humanism and depth, along with the scares, that puts her work on higher level than many of her contemporaries.

What are your current projects?

I’m currently writing the third book in the Rusty Diamond series, which will be published in late 2016 or early 2017. After that, I plan to finish off another trilogy that began with my first novel, Crimson Orgy, in 2008, and then continued with The Platinum Loop in 2011. The third book is entitled Gaslight Black and will bring the legend of the world’s most notorious underground movie to completion. I’m looking forward to starting that project and getting back in touch with some old characters I haven’t written about in a while.


Paperback, 266 pages
Expected publication: October 20th 2015 by Diversion Books
ISBN13: 9781626817784


About Blind Shuffle: A Rusty Diamond Novel26074301

Far from the neon lights of Bourbon Street, heinous crimes are being committed against young women, and a street magician seeks to pull off his greatest trick by staying alive long enough to see justice done. The stage is set for a New Orleans noir perfect for fans of James Lee Burke and George Pelecanos.

Rusty Diamond abandoned the Crescent City years ago to pursue fame in Las Vegas, leaving Marceline Lavalle, the daughter of his mentor, with a broken heart. Now Rusty has come back to make amends with his former teacher and his first love―but Prosper Lavalle won’t face him, and no one has seen Marceline for days.

Five months pregnant, Marceline’s vanished without a trace. Her estranged boyfriend, a casino boss with criminal ties and a hair-trigger temper, claims no knowledge of her whereabouts. With the police not yet ready to declare foul play, Rusty launches his own investigation.

The search for Marceline will take Rusty into the darkest corners of New Orleans, where enormous profit can be made from human misery, where desperate people hunt on the fringes, and where not all magic is sleight of hand. It will force him to confront the mistakes of his past, and offer him a shot at redemption. And it will leave him―if he’s not careful―at the bottom of a bayou.