J.E. Fishman-Review, Interview and Giveaway
The Long Black Hand
Bomb Squad NYC: Incident #3
by JE Fishman
Release Date: April 2, 2014
Genre: suspense, mystery, fiction, law enforcement
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THE LONG BLACK HAND (Bomb Squad NYC: Incident 3) by J.E. Fishman
ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date April 2, 2014
Bomb Squad Commander Lieutenant Joseph Capobianco fields an unusual request from a friend of the mayor’s: Do a bomb sweep at the famed Julius School of Music and at the luxurious apartment of their visiting star tenor, Claudio Spotto. At first the team that Joe sends finds nothing in the way of bombs, but other signs of trouble mount rapidly. Someone doesn’t want Spotto to remain in New York — and that someone is threatening violence via bomb.
The commander soon realizes that this case has echoes of the Bomb Squad’s origins in extortion from the Black Hand, evoking threats made nearly a hundred years before against the great tenor Enrico Caruso. What does this new Black Hander know about these parallels? Is this a personal challenge to Joe’s early tenure as Bomb Squad commander? And, as the Black Hand grows bolder, can Joe’s team stop the extortionist before someone dies in the escalating violence?
REVIEW: THE LONG BLACK HAND is the third instalment in J.E. Fishman’s contemporary crime thriller series Bomb Squad NYC. With the focus on the members of the NYC bomb Squad this is Commander Joseph Capobianco’s story. When a favor is called into Capobianco’s office, he has no idea that the situation at the prestigious Julius School of Music may be connected to a century old threat against the original Bomb Squad members. Mysterious notes, crude pipe bombs, illegal fireworks and jealous lovers all roll together to make the Bomb Squad’s job a little tougher. Add a famous Italian tenor and you have the makings of an international disaster.
The focus of the storyline are the threats against guest tenor Claudio Spotto and the connections to the famed Julius School of Music. The reader is pulled into an investigation that will uncover an affair that is not so secret; a singer whose star has never quite reached the top; and a connection to the past that very few outside of law enforcement-are aware.
J.E.Fishman writes an intelligent, compelling and well paced story of mystery and suspense; where secrets are revealed and jealousy ignites a powder keg of betrayal; where family connections and political favors blur the lines of right and wrong. Commander Capobianco is a loving family man whose personal and public life find middle ground-a hard concept for many public figures these days.
The secondary characters are colorful, realistic and spirited. Told from third person point of view and two to three different perspectives THE LONG DARK HAND reveals the trials and tribulations of law enforcement and the unknown threats to our everyday lives. The world building continues with the familiarity of the NYC Bomb Squad members from previous storylines.
Like his previous instalment in the series J.E. Fishman ends the story rather abruptly. There is no epilogue or resolution, which is a little disconcerting. It doesn’t change up the storyline but it does feel like there is something missing-closure.
Copy supplied by the publisher.
Reviewed by Sandy
TRC: Hi Joel and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of your new Bomb Squad NYC series.
Joel: Thanks. I’m delighted to have you asking me tough questions. By the way, what do I win if I answer correctly?
TRC: Um…nothing? *snort*
TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?
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Joel: I’m one of the luckiest people alive, but I still get overcome by neuroses on a regular basis. Is that normal?
If you meant professionally, I’ve worked in and around publishing for most of my adult life, which may explain the neuroses. Deep down, all I ever really wanted to do was to tell stories. Life circumstances finally conspired to allow me to do that about six years ago, when my wife and I sold a house and a business and moved from Westchester County, New York, to the Brandywine Valley outside Wilmington, Delaware. Since then I’ve published seven books.
TRC: Your bio says you are a former editor, literary agent and a ghostwriter. What do each of these titles entail?
Joel: I was an acquiring editor at Doubleday, where I covered business, sports, popular science, and narrative nonfiction, mostly. I’d field queries and manuscripts from agents, pitch what I liked to the editorial meeting, negotiate purchase of those books if I got the go-ahead, edit them, position them with the marketing and publicity teams, and finally see them into distribution. In that role I worked with many journalists and experts in their field, as well as a few well-known sports figures, such as Jim Kelly, quarterback for the Buffalo Bills at the time, and Ronnie Lott, who was a free safety for the San Francisco Forty-Niners. I tried to buy a book by Wilt Chamberlain once. Although it didn’t work out, I had the distinct privilege of walking down Fifth Avenue with him on the way to lunch. A guy steps in front of us on the sidewalk, points, and says, “You’re still the best there ever was, Wilt.”
Cool, right? But it was all very corporate and getting more so. It occurred to me that I spent more and more time pitching books within the publishing house, so it was a small step to pitching book projects to other houses. I decided to leave and establish my own agency, which mostly represented journalists – New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury-News, etc. Eventually I sold the agency to Jane Dystel. Years later, she became my agent.
The ghostwriting thing was more of an interlude. Ironically, I took it on to get myself writing, as I was distracted by another business at the time. But it didn’t really get me into the fiction-writing flow just then, because the distractions of business and life remained, and the ghost writing was time-consuming.
TRC: What is the purpose behind the business of ghost writing?
Joel: The purpose is to make money by providing expert authors the writing skills they often lack.
TRC: BOMB SQUAD NYC is your latest series focusing on the people who work in the bomb squad unit headquartered at a fictionalized police precinct in New York City. Would you please tell us something about the premise of the series?
Joel: I wanted to do a series with all the urban grit of old-line police procedurals like those of Ed McBain, but modernized and with more of a thriller element introduced. The NYPD Bomb Squad is the oldest, busiest, and most technologically sophisticated bomb squad in the world—plus, they’re operating out of a headquarters in one of Manhattan’s hottest neighborhoods, the West Village. I’m telling this elite squad’s story in a fictionalized way, of course, but they’re true heroes. What interests me is portraying them as real people, flawed and vulnerable, who set aside their personal challenges and their troubles to keep eight million citizens safe from bombings. And, this being New York, there’s always the threat of another bomb going off.
The series shares three things with the real-life NYPD Bomb Squad: their history, their equipment, and most of their procedures. The rest is fictionalized.
TRC: Would you please tell us something about the premise of each of the following:
A DANGER TO HIMSELF AND OTHERS-Click HERE for our review.
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The central character is Manny Diaz, one of the newest guys on the squad, but with an extensive army EOD (explosives and ordnance division) background. Veterans with prostheses are blowing themselves up in front of army recruiting stations, and Manny doesn’t believe these are suicides. He has to buck his sergeant and his own demons to find the truth before someone else gets killed.
DEATH MARCH- Click HERE for our review.
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In Death March, there’s a credible terrorist threat against the Thanksgiving Day parade. Somehow three dozen detectives have to defend the two-and-a-half-mile parade route. Manny’s sergeant from the first book, Sandy Kahn, ends up having to outthink the terrorists. Two other characters, Kenny Ridley and Cam Fowler, also end up laying their lives on the line.
THE LONG BLACK HAND
In this one, Bomb Squad Commander Lieutenant Joe Capobianco is tormented by extortion threats against a famous tenor visiting the Julius School of Music near Lincoln Center. The case harks back to the earliest history of the Bomb Squad, when an organized crime group known as the Black Hand planted hundreds of bombs a year and extorted money from the great tenor Enrico Caruso.
TRC: How many books do you have planned for the series?
Joel: Who knows? My attitude is: Read all you want. I’ll write more.
TRC: Will the characters overlap with each successive storyline?
Joel: Yes, as you can see from my descriptions, there are overlaps, but it’s not a single-detective kind of series. More of an ensemble cast, with different characters stepping forward for different cases. That’s how it is in real life, and in totality it will give readers a portrait of an entire squad.
TRC: Will we see a resolution to Manny’s personal problem in a future storyline?
Joel: You mean, you didn’t think his problems resolved at the end of the first book? Ha! I don’t think most people’s problems resolve in real life—more like they e-volve. I think you’ll definitely see Manny change over time. But I caution you that he’s not a major character in another book for a while.
TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background) did you encounter writing this particular story?
Joel: Well, I got the idea for this series because NYPD Bomb Squad headquarters is a couple of blocks up the street from my apartment in New York, but I didn’t personally know a single cop—big challenge there—and most information on bomb squads is pretty closely held. I started out researching on the internet and through books, but I knew I had to drill deeper. Fortunately, a friend eventually introduced me to the FBI’s leading bomb tech, who in turn introduced me to the squad’s commander, Lieutenant Mark Torre. He became my technical consultant and opened up a whole world to me.
TRC: Are the storyline characters based in reality or a combination of fact and fiction?
Joel: There’s no character based on a particular real-life person, but I’ve gotten to know how these guys really think and the challenges they face, so I hope that comes across.
TRC: If you could virtually cast the leading characters in the series, which models or actors best represent your ideal image?
Joel: I’m terrible at questions like that! It needs actors who can do real, down-to-earth, and gritty with New York accents. People—at least, in my opinion—like Edward Norton, Matthew McConaughey, Mark Wahlberg, maybe Sean Penn. There will eventually be a female character—no women in the Bomb Squad at the moment, in real life or fiction—and I’d like to see Ellen DeGeneres playing that character straight. I don’t mean sexually straight, mind you, but unfunny.
TRC: How do you keep the plot unpredictable without sacrificing content and believability?
Joel: Well, the million-dollar question for all novelists isn’t so much how you keep it unpredictable but how you keep it unpredictable while having it make sense in the end. It’s easy to have something be unpredictable and conclude with complete nonsense, but having the reader sit up and say, “Of course! How did I not see that coming?!”—that’s the trick, isn’t it? A lot of it is about introducing key elements while distracting the reader from their significance at first. The most important thing is to respect readers’ intelligence. If you let them get a step ahead of you, their experience of the story may be doomed.
TRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?
Joel: I like to start with premise, so in the beginning that’s me directing. What if I dropped a guy like this in a situation like that? But characters are built one decision at a time, and once you’ve had them make a few decisions, a lot of doors close. At some point, then, the characters have to act “within character,” and you can’t fully direct that. You have to let it happen or their actions will ring false.
TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writers fail in this endeavor?
Joel: Great question. There isn’t any one thing. Some comes from point of view. Even though this series is written in the third person, it’s a close third, so the reader is over a given character’s shoulder and in his head—not only thinking, but feeling with him. But there are lots of smaller things, too. Using all five senses, for example. And withholding information. We live life blind. For the most part we have no idea what’s going on inside another person’s head. When someone does something slightly unexpected, it hits us in the gut as much as the brain.
TRC: Writers Block is a very real phenomenon. How do you handle the pressures and anxiety of writer’s block?
Joel: There’s only one way. You sit down and write. You accept that you might not do your best work that day, but imperfect is better than nothing. And you remind yourself constantly that you can always go back and fix your mistakes later. (Presuming, of course, that you actually will.) Expectation of perfection is the main enemy of productivity.
TRC: Many authors bounce ideas and information with other authors or friends and family. With whom do you bounce ideas?
Joel: I like to tell people a premise or a scene and see whether their eyes light up. I’m also fortunate to have an experienced editor on my team, Patrick LoBrutto. He has no stake in lying to me, because if he does so, it only makes more work for him later!
TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?
1. See my daughter graduate from high school a complete and happy person.
2. Continue to love and appreciate my wife more every day.
3. Yeah, write a mega-bestseller.
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Joel: Incident 4 in the Bomb Squad NYC series. It’s called Blast from the Past. Kieran Lehane, a dog handler who’s the oldest member of the squad, never believed the official explanation for the destruction of Flight 699, which blew up five minutes out of JFK. The story begins when he goes to a hearing on the subject, and since he’s late from work he has to bring his dog. As the hearing is breaking up, the dog alerts: there’s a guy in the hearing room with explosive residue on his person! Lehane gives chase but the guy gets away. But Kieran’s a stubborn guy. You can bet that won’t be the end of it.
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Joel: Um. If you buy all my books I’ll be your best friend?
Anything the great sushi chef Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio puts in front of me.
Chocolate chip cookies from Jacques Torres
Favorite TV Show
Last Movie You Saw
The Wolf of Wall Street
Dark or Milk Chocolate
Dark—and the higher cacao content, the better
Secret Celebrity Crush
Go ahead. Get me in trouble. Gwyneth Paltrow.
Last Vacation Destination
Virgin Gorda, BVI
Do you have any pets?
Yep. Two French bulldogs, a Labrador-ish rescue dog, an evil calico cat, and several horses.
Last book you read
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
People writing about New York who don’t know New York.
TRC: Thank you Joel for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on the release of the BOMB SQUAD NYC series. We wish you all the best.
Joel: Thank you very much.
Shelton Interactive and Joel are offering a paper copy of A DANGER TO HIMSELF to two (2) lucky commenters at The Reading Cafe.
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