Who the hell is Penny Bly?
Early in the pandemic, this was the question I couldn’t get out of my head. Penny Bly was going to be the driving force behind my next thriller, but I knew very little about her.
As most of you know, I don’t outline; my books simply start with an idea for an opening chapter and I take the ride from there. But in 2000, what came to me was not an idea for an opening scene, but rather a person. This woman Penny. I knew her name, and I knew she was a 21-year-old savant, one of only 75 in the world. I also knew Penny wasn’t born a savant, but rather became one through physical trauma (acquired savant syndrome). She sees numbers as colors, has a perfect memory, and can draw with photographic detail.
I was still writing my previous book, but for months I thought daily about Penny. Where does she live? Does she have friends? What trauma happened to her to make her a savant? And, above all else, what does she want?
Turns out, all Penny ever really wanted was to find her father. But in order to do so, she would have to venture out into the real world, a place where all the smarts in the world can’t stop those with very bad intentions.
Penny took me on a wild ride—I hope she does the same for you. The Father She Went to Find releases April 2, 2024.
Making It Up
New episodes of Making It Up are out! This month I chatted with brilliant thriller writer Lindsay Cameron (Just One Look), literary suspense novelist Chris Riley (The Broken Pines), award-winning writer Carl Vondereau (Saving Myles), and Danish literary legend Michael Katz Krefeld (Darkness Calls).
What’s Entertaining Me
Book: Where You End (Abbott Kahler, Macmillan, 2024)
I met Abbott at a small literary conference in Colorado, where we were both guest authors. At the time, she had just released The Ghosts of Eden Park (under the name Karen Abbott), a New York Times bestselling non-fiction look at Prohibition through the eyes of George Remus, one of the period’s most fascinating characters. We’ve since become friends and have traded emails over the past couple of years, and in November she’ll be on my podcast promoting her upcoming book Where You End. This is her first novel and her first work written under Abbott Kahler, and she was kind enough to send me an advance copy (it releases in January).
What a read! I normally cringe at the term “literary thriller” but if there’s any book that fits the bill, it’s Where You End. There’s endless argument over what the term “literary” even means, but Kahler’s gorgeous writing is what did it for me. The highly original plot with its endless paranoia and second guessing is enough to yank the reader in, but the sublime phrasing and bewitching descriptions makes you yearn to get lost in the pages. There’s no question this novel will be hitting many 2024 best of lists, so do yourself a favor and pre-order a copy ASAP.
Movie: Hypnotic (2023)
Rarely, if ever, do I review something I don’t like. I think it’s because if I read or watch something that wasn’t for me, it feels like so much effort to write multiple paragraphs about it. So here you go, a haiku review of the thriller Hypnotic.
Ben Affleck must stop them all
This film fucking stinks.
Photo of the Month
It’s Halloween time, and as I’ve done the past few years I’m converting my garage into a theme. This year’s theme is “haunted attic,” which means a ghost girl singing a creepy lullaby, lots of white sheets and black lights, a good amount of fog, and a possessed doll that launches from its chair and shakes when a motion sensor is triggered. Bring on the screams!
Update from my Kids
I flew out to Baton Rouge, LA to spend a few days with my boy on his fall break at LSU. We toured the campus, ate some Cajun food, and I got a chance to spoil him wildly. A perfect trip!
Update from my Pets
Scully is not so sure about her Halloween costume.
Humor of the Month sent to me by a friend
That’s it for now! Until next month…