It’s time for April’s Featured Author from Mystery Authors International and this month the place of honour goes to Phyllis Entis and The Damien Dickens Mysteries. You’re in for a real treat this month, as there are three books in the series to get your manic mystery mitts on.
In the great tradition of Agatha Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence Beresford and Dashiell Hammett’s Nick & Nora Charles, mystery writer Phyllis Entis presents Damien & Millie Dickens, Private Investigators.
The Dickens Detective Agency may be headquartered in 1980s Atlantic City, but Damien and Millie’s cases take them from Montreal to Miami. The settings are authentic, the plots are twisted, and the action moves forward at a steady pace.
Enjoy all three of Damien and Millie’s exploits. Download DAMIEN DICKENS MYSTERIES: BOOKS 1, 2 & 3 at Amazon today.
Phyllis gave me some insight into how her series and the intrepid investigators came to be. Naturally, there’s a story to be told here too:
Damien Dickens was born during a drop-in writing workshop at the Riford Branch of the San Diego Public Library, located in La Jolla, California.
The weekly workshop had a simple format. The moderator began each session with a writing prompt, typically a sentence, a list of words, or a picture. We all wrote at top speed for twenty minutes. At the end of the timed writing period, each of us read our creations out loud to the other participants in the group.
For the first session of 2013, our moderator introduced something new. She arrived laden with a stack of 10 x 13 brown envelopes, which she proceeded to distribute to us. Each envelope contained a different object. As a warm-up exercise, she instructed us to reach into the envelope, feel the object inside and, without looking at the object, write a few words of description. Then she had us remove the object from the envelope and use it as our story prompt.
The object in my envelope was a string of green plastic beads, such as would be found at a New Orleans Mardi Gras event. In my story, the beads became an expensive rope of green pearls belonging to Sylvia Sutherland, the CEO of Sutherland Smokes. Sylvia, so the story went, was worried about her kid sister, Celine, and engaged Damien Dickens to protect her. In my piece of flash fiction, Sylvia was the archetypical slinky dame and Damien the clichéd down-on-his-luck private eye. Fortunately for my readers, both characters evolved dramatically by the time I had completed the first draft of THE GREEN PEARL CAPER.
The first novel led to a second, THE WHITE RUSSIAN CAPER, and the second led to a third, THE CHOCOLATE LABRADOODLE CAPER. The three published novels are now united in a Kindle ebook compilation, DAMIEN DICKENS MYSTERIES: BOOKS 1, 2, & 3.
The first three ‘Capers’ will be joined by a fourth Damien Dickens novel later this year.
Not your average muse, I think you’ll agree. You can tell there’s a vivid imagination whirring away in the background, can’t you?
Let’s take a look at an excerpt from each story:
THE GREEN PEARL CAPER (Prologue)
I killed Celine. A couple of teenagers found her body last Sunday morning, half-hidden under the Boardwalk, a single bullet hole through her chest. The bullet came from my Smith & Wesson 29, the gun found on the beach not far from where Celine lay.
It wasn’t my finger that pulled the trigger. I wasn’t there when she died. Even so, I killed her. She came to me for help; I had bailed her out of a tight spot in the past, and she trusted me. But, this time, I let her down. I didn’t believe she was really in danger. I screwed up, and Celine paid the price. She was murdered, and it’s my fault.
Celine walked into my office on July 16, 1979. Less than one week later, she was dead.
WOW – you have to admit that is one killer opening hook 🙂
THE WHITE RUSSIAN CAPER (Chapter One opening)
I was on my way out the door when the call came in. Millie already had left for the day; I covered the distance to her desk in two long strides and grabbed for the telephone. “Dickens Detective Agency,” I announced.
“Is this Mr. Dickens? Mr. Damien Dickens?”
The voice in my ear was vaguely familiar. “Yes,” I replied, “this is Dickens.”
“Oh, Mr. Dickens,” the soft male voice exhaled, “thank heavens! I didn’t know whom to call. Then I remembered your visit last year to my establishment. I require your assistance.”
“Who is this?” I interrupted.
“Why, it’s Stephane.” He paused, waiting for my reaction. “Stephane Major, n’est ce pas? Do you not remember me?
I recognized the voice then. It belonged to the General Manager of Boardwalk Hall, the venue of The Miss America Pageant – Atlantic City’s crown jewel. I had met the fussbudgety Mr. Major about six months before, when I was investigating the murder of Celine Sutherland. “Yes,” I acknowledged, though not without some reluctance, “I remember you, Mr. Major.”
“Oh, thank heavens.” I could almost see his hand fluttering against his chest. “Oh, I don’t know what to do. I need your help, Mr. Dickens. It’s about Miss America, n’est ce pas?”
“What about Miss America?”
I love the way in which the author transports us readers back in time here – it’s so evocative.
But, there’s one more to come …
THE CHOCOLATE LABRADOODLE CAPER (from Chapter Four)
By the time I reached the office, it was approaching 7pm. There was no sign of Millie’s car in the parking lot, but I decided to go upstairs anyway, in case she had left me a message. When I got to the top of the stairs, I noticed an intermittent flicker of light shining through the frosted glass of our office door. I moved silently down the hall, keeping close to the wall. As I approached the door, I crouched down below the level of the glass pane and reached automatically for my pistol, before remembering that it was locked in the trunk of the car. Heart in my throat, I grasped the doorknob, turned it slowly, and edged the door open just enough to allow myself to slip inside.
The outer office was in chaos. Millie’s desk had been ransacked, the drawers hanging open and askew. Her files and notes were strewn over the desktop and spilled onto the floor, where they were joined by the contents of the filing cabinet. The intruder was in my office with the door closed; I could hear him shuffling through the papers on my desk. I tip-toed past Millie’s desk. My hand was on the knob to my office door now. I eased it open gently, but a squeak from one of the hinges cut through the silence. The intruder spun around at the sound and tried to flee past me. At the last second, I caught him ankle-high with a shoestring tackle. He fell heavily, dropping his flashlight as he hit the floor. We both scrambled for it, but he was closer and got there first. In a single, smooth sweep of his arm, he slammed the flashlight into my skull.
Cue sound effects: Whack! Bam! Crash! 😀
These stories are made for audiobooks, don’t you think?
And, talking of which – okay, so it was a set-up – I can confirm that the audio versions are available via Audible with a new voice for Damien Dickens recently joining Phyllis’s crew.
For more details about Phyllis and how to keep up with details of these and more Damien Dicken’s mysteries in the future, you can follow her here:
Phyllis Entis is the author of the Damien Dickens Mysteries series, which includes The Green Pearl Caper, The White Russian Caper and The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper. Her debut novel, The Green Pearl Caper, was a Library Journal SELF-e Selection. Phyllis is a free-lance writer and retired food safety microbiologist with degrees from McGill University and the University of Toronto. In 2007, ASM Press published her non-fiction book, Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives.
Phyllis lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California with her husband and their Australian Cobberdog, Shalom. When she’s not writing, Phyllis usually can be found walking around town, browsing in the local library, or enjoying her garden.
So? What are you waiting for? Get clicking those links 🙂
Thank you to Phyllis for sharing her stories with me. Wishing you lots of luck and oodles more inspiration for future capers.