Announcing The Buffalo Butcher!

Today’s news - the launch of The Buffalo Butcher!
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Is it a holiday? 

I’m not sure, but it feels like one to me—perhaps because I grew up in the greatest Halloween region on the planet, where the season always brought with it the tang of apple cider, the crunch of falling leaves, and a brisk wind off Lake Erie—on which might float the first flakes of winter snow.

Nowadays I live in Virginia, and October weather can be less consistently inspiring. So I surround myself with those things dear to any Halloweenie—orange-and-black décor, carved pumpkins—to create a kind of artificial environment. Not so different from dreaming up novels, really.

The Buffalo Butcher was only one of those dreams as recently as June, when idly I began wondering about the thousands of hopeful young women who came to Buffalo in 1901 to find employment at the Pan-American Exposition. The ‘Pan’ created a boom-within-the-boom going on in Buffalo, when the city was the epicenter of the electric power, chemical, grain, and lumber trades. For many young ladies, the prospect of a new life—or of finding a good husband—in the big city became a gravitational force.

Delving into into some of their stories, I discovered a sorrowful theme—that quite a few of these women found the cost of self-maintenance in the bustling boomtown far exceeded the pittance they were paid as shopgirls, ticket-takers, and hostesses. Down on their luck and down to their last nickel, they were lured into prostitution. This gave me the first thread of the story.

The second thread was a bit of a spooky, Halloween notion. I wondered: what if someone started killing these young prostitutes as the Exposition was in full swing? Only thirteen years after Jack the Ripper ended his rampage in London, people might very well think he had come to the USA to pick up where he’d left off. Moreover, this new predator—dubbed “The Buffalo Butcher”—is carving strange symbols into their bodies, as though they were so many Halloween pumpkins . . .

And there I had the second thread. But it was the third one that distinguishes this from a Halloween-inspired slasher knockoff.

To ready myself to write this kind of novel, I dug into a stack of books about Jack and other serial killers, trying to figure out what made them tick. I gave up on that, heartsick … and concluded that no one really can understand the mind of a being that gets its jollies from taking life. What I did notice, with what I can only call disgust, was that the great majority of these books glorified the exploits of the killer, to the point of hero-worship; the victims were treated as so much incidental stage-dressing, reduced to nonentities even in death.

It was that which teased out the golden thread that bound the other two together. I determined that I would tell my ‘Ripper’ story from the point of view of the victims, the once-hopeful young women who’d had their bright futures—and lives—stolen from them. One punishing step at a time, these unfortunates had hit rock-bottom, to the point where no one cares if they live or die: not government, police, or citizens. They’re only whores. They had it coming.

Armed with that concept—in late June of this year—I showed a couple of early scenes to my publisher, Ashwood Press, hoping that they might be interested in a book separate and distinct from my Avenging Angel Detective Mysteries™. Well, be careful what you wish for, because they deemed the work ‘important’ and said that they wanted it out in time for Halloween. Gulp. To meet that deadline, that meant that I would have to write an entire book in one month, which in writer terms is like sprinting up Mount Fuji. But I managed it somehow, and the press pulled out all the stops to have the book ready to go . . . by today.

That’s the story behind the story, and there remains only one thing to say.  As much as I like Halloween and its cheerful gloss on death and the darker forces of our world, my treat for you is a little different. It’s not sweet, empty calories—rather, The Buffalo Butcher is an unflinching and sometimes hard-to-bear story of the real evil that walks among us still, the warped and the wicked who prey on the vulnerable, and how they work their dark magic. So be forewarned: If you’re looking for a ‘cozy mystery’, this ain’t it, folks. Don’t buy it, don’t read it, and sure as hell don’t review it. I had to tell this story in a way that would do justice to the victims, and in it you will find no sympathy for the Devil.  Instead, you will peer behind his mask—and it isn’t pretty.

Yet Butcher it is also—and above all—a tale of human triumph sifted from the ashes of tragedy. It is a story of friendship and love, decency and honor, and perhaps most of all dignity, all found among a group of outcast women confronting the greatest horrors of all: loneliness, condemnation, shame, and loss.

Books can take you anyplace you want to go, but good books will take you to places you didn’t expect to go. I hope you’ll find that to be true of this new effort. And so, without further delay, here is my Halloween treat to you: the opening of The Buffalo Butcher.

Click the yellow link above to download your free and immediate sneak peek of The Buffalo Butcher! I hope that you enjoy it. Buy now online and at your favorite booksellers!