–Author James Hankins. (Photo permission and courtesy of James Hankins.)
My wife Carolyn is a voracious reader. She lately has pored through all five of James Hankins’ novels.
I sometimes feel like my own little world is encased in a souvenir snow globe, the kind you shake so you can watch fat white flakes swirl around a miniature Eiffel Tower. Every now and then—far too often, I feel—fate has taken my globe in its unfeeling fingers and given it a cruel, vigorous shake, unleashing a merciless blizzard that left me snow–blind, dazed, barely able to breathe. It’s happened to me three times in my thirty–six years, and each time it happened I knew nothing would ever be the same again. The first time, it was an empty fried chicken bucket. It killed my parents. Tragically absurd, I know. I’ll explain later. The second time, it was a telephone call—and I wasn’t even a participant in the call. Nonetheless, that call—to someone else, from someone else—dramatically altered the course of my life. I’ll explain that later, too. The third time, though, the third time fate let winter’s mad fury loose in my world started with two little words. Those words, just three syllables all told, left me as cold and confused as I’d ever been. And again, my life was forever changed.
— James Hankins, Brothers and Bones (beginning of Chapter One)
I went online and started reading about this stoyteller’s work and discovered that almost all of of his reviewers concur with Carolyn’s assessment of his writing.
“What’s this boy pointing at?”
“This young boy here.”
Alice Norville had no idea what the boy was pointing at. She didn’t even remember painting him. In fact, though she had spent hours at the park observing the children at play, studying their bodies as they jumped and ran and spun with joy, watching the sunlight and shadows play off their hair and flashing sneakers, she hadn’t noticed this boy. Yet, there he was, carefully rendered by her own hand in acrylics, one of several kids playing in the park.
“I like him,” the man beside her said. “Frankly, he’s the best element in the painting.”
Well, he seems to like it so far. But had he actually said that? No, he simply said that he liked the boy. He hadn’t said anything about the rest of the painting.
Alice has researched Theo Rappaport. He used to be a painter of some renown, but that was long ago; he hadn’t sold a piece in twenty years. But Alice didn’t care if Rappaport could paint. What mattered was that he could teach painting. From all that she had learned, he was one of the best at it in New York City. So if she wanted to become one of his pupils, which she desperately did, her work was going to have to impress the heck out of him—more than the work of dozens of other aspiring artists vying for the final remaining spot in his studio.
— James Hankins, Drawn (beginning of Chapter One)
It was a big lump of paper in my drawer; I wanted to see if I could do it.
“My name is Caitlin Summers,” she said aloud even though she was alone.
Her feet hurt as she walked. Her legs were tired. She wasn’t sure why she was walking, but she kept going, her sore feet protesting as they carried her across the cracked pavement.
Though the night was clear, she walked in a fog. What day was it? Did she have to work in the morning? If so, she’d have to be in the office by nine. For a moment, she wasn’t certain what office that was, she remembered she was a real–estate agent. She couldn’t imagine why that fact had momentarily escaped her. Something bumped into her leg, and looking down, she was mildly surprised to see that she was holding a small canvas bag by its strap. She wondered where she’d gotten it.
She didn’t know where she was or how she had ended up there, walking across that pavement. She looked down and saw faded, painted white lines passing under her feet, one after the other, as she walked. She was in a parking lot. An empty one. No idea why. She’d simply woken up and there she was . . . wherever that was.
— James Hankins, The Prettiest One (beginning of Chapter One)
“You just got out of jail? Seriously?”
Stokes heard nothing but curiosity in the guy’s voice. No judgment, no fear, just curiosity and maybe a little slur from the alcohol.
“Didn’t say I was in jail,” Stokes said. He took a sip of Budweiser and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, the one that held the bottle. “Said I was at the jail. They had me in for questioning. No big deal.”
The guy looked at him in drunk–eyed wonder, like he was a rare species of lizard. “Wow. In jail.” He took a sip of his Manhattan. “I guess you must not have done whatever they thought you did, though, or they wouldn’t have let you go.”
Stokes knew it didn’t always work like that, but why get into it?
“Like I said, no big deal.” He looked at the guy’s tailored suit again, the suit that led Stokes to the bar stool next to him in the first place. “So, what’s your deal?”
“My name’s Tom,” the guy said.
Stokes nodded, waited for an answer to his question, didn’t get it, so he asked again, “So what’s your deal? You from Shady Cross?”
“What’s Shady Cross?”
— James Hankins, Shady Cross (beginning of Chapter One)
Peter Lisbon woke to the sound of a voice. It was a strange voice. Unnatural. The strange voice spoke again. “Wakey, wakey, Peter.”
There’s something really wrong with that voice, Lisbon thought. It was the only thought that came to him. He was having trouble forming others. His mind was . . . foggy.
“Open your eyes now, Peter,” the voice said. “You have to wake up now. You’ve got some thinking to do. A difficult decision to make.”
What’s wrong with that voice? It was high pitched and nasal, slightly tremulous and . . . mechanical or robotic or . . . something. It was just very, very wrong and it did not belong in his bedroom.
— James Hankins, Jack of Spades (beginning of Chapter One)
I call this innate and well honed ability to do so evidence of his being a literary alchemist. He takes the elements in his life surrounding him and transforms them into characters and story elements wherein they struggle to find a psychological elixir, or even a universal solvent, to transmutate their lives into ones of greater, perhaps even great, universal, value . . .
Thomas & Mercer is named for the streets that run by the Amazon headquarters in Seattle. It is the fifth publishing venue in the Amazon Publishing family, preceded by AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, Powered by Amazon, and Montlake Romance.
May 18, 2011: the launch of Thomas & Mercer, the fifth imprint from Amazon Publishing, focused on mysteries and thrillers.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products or services that I have mentioned here. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”