This Is A Stickup.

A Half Interest In Murder 1960 raymond johnson cover copy

I’ve never been a victim of a crime. Not really. Not violent crime, at any rate.

Our home was broken into twice when I was a teenager, our garage on another occasion. Such is life in the city. Fresh out of college, my nifty new car was stolen, found two months later in a snowbank in rural Indiana, stripped and vandalized. A few years later, my workplace was broken into, once in the city with some professional camera gear stolen, and once again when out in the suburbs, some computer equipment taken and needless vandalism done, the crooks probably kids since they only stole whatever was closest to the door and left all the valuable stuff behind. That time the suburban police ‘invited’ everyone at work to be fingerprinted, which was actually pretty interesting. (They were investigating a string of break-ins in the area, but nothing ever came of it.) I’ve had SE European ID thieves whack both a company charge card and a personal credit card on separate occasions, with lots of charges rung up quickly, none of which I was responsible for.

But I’ve never had a gun pointed at me, never been mugged or assaulted, stalked or abused, thank God. The incidents listed above barely qualify me to claim that I’ve been a crime victim for a jury duty voir dire (though it did get me out of sitting on a jury once…whew).

So, this hardly qualifies as a ‘crime’, but…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Check out Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog (link below) and his 7.11.19 post “Copyright Infringement, Again!”. The excellent “Reader-Writer-Resources-& More” blog featured a post from poet Kevin Morris’ K Morris – Poet blog (link below) about Kiss Library ( Morris occasionally browses online to see if his work has appeared anywhere or snagged a review, which I suspect many of us do. He was shocked to discover one of his titles for sale on Kiss Library — for which he never granted permission, listed the title, uploaded files, or will receive any payment. Browsing further about Kiss Library, he uncovered (not surprisingly) posts and articles which seemed to indicate that the site was, at best, questionable, accused of listing pirated eBooks and PDF downloads. Morris’ post provides a link to Sara F. Hawkins – Attorney At Law’s site (link below) and then Dale Cameron Lowry’s site (again, link below) for more info about Kiss Library, the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and the pretty complex process an author or publisher can pursue to attempt to get an ISP to remove illegally appropriated content. Follow the links, read up on it, but I’m sure you’ll agree: It ain’t easy.

K Morris - Poet Blog

I’ve read quite a bit lately about pirated content being sold on Amazon in particular, and the frustration authors and publishers – large and small alike—have with the online behemoth’s failure to police things better. We read about them so much because they’re so big. Clearly there may be others. Intrigued, I went to Kiss Library myself, and plugged in a prior pen name of mine.

Sure enough, two books popped up, both for sale as eBooks and downloadable PDF’s. I’d never even heard of Kiss Library, and definitely never listed any books there, authorized them to sell my work, or received a notice or payment from them. Basically, they were stolen, if not by the site, then by someone stealing the content and cover art images and listing them at Kiss Library.

Bottom line: Theft. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Dale Cameron Lowry

Sarah F Hawkins

“The Stiletto Gumshoe” — the first completed novel, its halfway completed sequel and a hoped-for noirishly hard-boiled P.I. series — are my current projects. But I’m not entirely new to writing or publishing, though hardly a seasoned pro. Working under a pen name, I’ve had a number of short stories published in chapbooks, zines, magazines and anthologies, each of which snagged darn good reviews along with payment commensurate with those kinds of venues. I’ve had three novels published by a small press. One sold out its first and second printing and was an award nominee. The other two sold out their print runs, and one of them sold foreign rights (though only for one country). All garnered excellent reviews which I’m still quite proud of. But like many small presses, that one disbanded. Nonetheless, I made respectable money, sold around 10,000 copies altogether, held onto my reviews, and some time later, put two of those novels out on my own, even able to access the original cover art files for one of the books, creating new art for the other. (Doesn’t hurt to work in the marcom profession for the day job and have all the proper software for building cover art, formatting text, etc.) Both books went up as eBooks and POD hard copy editions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I don’t ‘market’ or promote them, had no expectations of selling many, but just didn’t want cherished early work that I was still proud of to simply vanish. So, every couple of months I get a direct deposit or two, enough to buy a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s or to feel less guilty when I splurge at a bookstore. And for me, that’s good enough.

As for Kiss Library? The two books listed there as of 7.11.19 were both the reformatted editions of my own, not the original small press publisher’s versions, selling for $5.97 and $5.86 US (the cheapskates). I read that Kiss Library is located in The Republic Of Belarus (formerly Byelorussia) sandwiched between Poland, Lithuania and Russia (Minsk is the capital, if that helps the geographically challenged). However, on its site, it lists its location in Canada. I screen-capped the page with my two books, so I have a record of that. But when I returned to the site on 7.13.19, they were gone, with no info appearing by title or author searches.

Think I should’ve ordered one of each to see what I actually would receive? Oh sure, like I’m going to hand over credit card info to what may be a questionable pirated content site. I’ll pass.

But the point of this lengthy link-filled post is this: Clearly some of the visitors and followers of this blog are writers. I’ll bet you periodically search your own work online (and if you say you don’t, I say you’re fibbing). Keep an eye out for Kiss Library. If you feel brave, pop over to see if your work appears there. And keep an eye out in general for pirated content everywhere.

Hopefully C. J. Thomas’ The Stiletto Gumshoe series will sell at some point (and soon, I say with fingers crossed) and not just to some micro-publisher. But who knows what may occur, or if I’ll find myself buried in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat files again,  formatting my work for Amazon, B&N and elsewhere. But if I do, I’m sure as hell going to keep an eye out for crooks. And I do plan to revisit Kiss Library once in a while to see what’s up or if my titles mysteriously reappear.

Multiple links below…

Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog:

Kevin Morris’ kmorris – Poet Blog:

Sara F. Hawkins – Attorney At Law Blog (How To File A DMCA Take Down Notice):

Dale Cameron Lowry’s Blog:

Illustration at the top: Raymond Johnson’s illustration for A Half Interest in Murder, 1960


Abbett’s Silver-Age Masterpieces

run for doom robert abbett

Robert Abbett is but one of the many 20th century illustrators often eclipsed by more famous names like Robert McGinnis, Robert Maguire, James Avati, Belarski, DeSoto and others. And he’s also one of the many artists whose paperback cover and magazine illustration work represents but a tiny part of their artistic career, so many of these academically trained artists well-skilled in and much preferring to work in other subjects altogether…Western art for McGinnis and James Bama, Civil War historical painting for Mort Kunstler, and so on. In Abbett’s case, his illustration fame is definitely overshadowed by his renown as a wildlife, landscape and outdoors artist. Born in Hammond Indiana, Robert Kennedy Abbett (1926 – 2015) studied at the University of Missouri and Purdue University, and once he achieved some success in commercial illustration, relocated to Oakdale Farm in rural Connecticut in 1953. There he became entranced with the autumnal landscapes, hunting and wildlife scenes, which became his trademark in his post-illustration fine arts career.

In fact, even within paperback cover illustration, it’s probably his work on many Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Barsoom and Pellucidar books that brought him the most acclaim, much more than general fiction, crime fiction or any so-called ‘sleaze’ books, which so many illustrators had in their portfolios (even if hidden way in the back).

run for doom kane

Working in a style reminiscent of Mitchell Hooks and other ‘silver age’ artists, Abbett had a tremendous command of figure drawing, but still enjoyed abstracted or vignetted backgrounds and settings, which became the trend in the late 1950’s through mid-1960’s. Bird dogs in New England fields may be his primary legacy, but for me it’s the way so many of his characters look precisely like those I imagine for my own in-progress writing (which is set in 1959, after all). Above is the original art for Henry Kane’s Run For Doom from 1962, as well as a so-so found image of the book cover. Below is one of my favorites: Robert Carroll’s 1961 Champagne At Dawn. No, I don’t mean the book. I don’t have it and never read it, and I’m not sure I’d go looking for a readable copy about ‘fly now, pay later girls’. But change that hair color to a deep brunette shade, and that’s more or less Sharon Gardner, AKA Sasha Garodnowicz, AKA the ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’. Well, maybe a slightly more ‘curvy’ version of Gardner/Garodnowicz/Gumshoe. I can forego a 1961 novel about stewardesses (I assume in 1961 they weren’t flight attendants yet), but I’d give anything to find a decent scan of the original art from that book!

Champagne At Dawn 1961

Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine 2019

To followers, visitors, and all the lovers everywhere out there tonight…those in love, those looking for love, those feeling unloved and even those simply in love with love:

A very happy Valentine’s Day, from the ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’.


Turner’s Warshawski

v i warshawski kathleen turner

Kathleen Turner as one of the 90’s best ‘stiletto gumshoes’, here in a publicity shot for the 1991 film V. I. Warshawski, the movie adaptation of Sara Paretsky’s award-winning hard-boiled Chicago private detective series.

Who (or what) is the “Stiletto Gumshoe”?


What (or who) is the “Stiletto Gumshoe”?

On one hand, it’s the working title of a project I’m currently querying, the first novel in what could hopefully become a mystery/crime fiction series. 

Set in the ethnic blue collar bungalow belt of 1959 Chicago’s south side, a young woman who’s more at home perched on a bar stool in a cocktail lounge than a receptionist’s chair in an office has been between jobs for far too long when she finally lands a gig as a one-man private detective firm’s secretary. But almost before she can cash her first paycheck, she finds herself tangling with blackmailers, crooked cops and brutal murders…including her new boss found plugged full of bullets behind his desk. Discovering that he was a bit of a louse — not altogether dirty, but certainly a little dusty – she concludes that he was still her louse, and is determined to find out who killed him and why. Which puts some mighty scary people on her tail, from Chicago mobsters to political bigwigs (which can almost be one and the same in Chicago), and once she gets to the bottom of things, the press dismissively dubs her the “Stiletto Gumshoe”. They may have been poking fun at the petit twenty-two year old party girl who uncovered massive civic corruption schemes and left two rogue cops shot dead. But even if there’s a fine line between fame and notoriety, she decides to parlay it into a new career, and hangs up her private detective’s shingle right in her old boss’ office. 

Well, that’s my‘stiletto gumshoe’. 


But I’m also intrigued by the many other ‘stiletto gumshoes’ from mystery and crime fiction novels, vintage pulp fiction magazines, retro and current television and films, comics and graphic novels. From Sally The Sleuthto Mrs. TreeSally O’Neil The Undercover Girlto Miss FuryHoney Westto Jessica Jones, there are a lot more female private eyes, detectives, cops, costumed crime fighters, crusading district attorneys and snoopy reporters than you might think. 

Honestly, I simply adore all things ‘noir’. And ‘noir’ is clearly a much more inclusive aesthetic than simply Film Noir from the mid-twentieth century. I choose to shoehorn in the countless kitschy 40’s-50’s crime fiction paperbacks along with the illustrators who created their memorably garish covers. Sure, I love the classic films noir, but enjoy B-movie crime melodramas and series and contemporary ‘neo-noir’ films as well. I’m particularly intrigued by the surprising number of fine artists and commercial photographers who draw upon the tropes and clichés of classic noir cinema and pulp art in everything from serious gallery paintings to trashy – but darkly gorgeous – fashion photography. And since it seems that half the recent films and television series are adapted from comics and graphic novel sources, I get a real kick out of mystery/crime fiction comic art, from the quaint titles and characters of 50/60/70 years ago to the hipper, grimmer and sometimes shockingly dark material some cool creatives are generating today. Some of it features ‘stiletto gumshoes’. Some rely on Chandler-Hammett-Spillane clones…those more familiar gumshoes in wingtips.

Well, they’re welcome here too.

alexa mazzarello


“A writer’s blog that not.”

Huh? That’s what the masthead’s subtitle says. And this is a writer’s blog. But then, it’s also not.

Yes, I am a writer. Previously published in multiple genres in the small press scene and did reasonably well for that marketplace. Which is like an actor saying they’ve been successful in community theatre or an artist saying that they’ve done well in sidewalk art fairs. Fine, but hardly the validation most creatives long for. Still, with rights to those projects reverted, I’ve dabbled a little with doing it myself at Amazon in print and Kindle eBooks to keep a couple of those projects alive. Also, I had the opportunity to work on the business end of trade book publishing for a while, which was a good learning experience and a real eye-opener. But don’t look for anything about those undertakings here.

I’m still a writer, of course. Either you are, or you aren’t, right? It’s not like you can just turn it off. The fingertips inevitably get itchy for the keyboard, don’t they? At the moment I’m shopping around one recently completed novel via the normal query process (with all the customary frustrations that entails), while hard at work on its sequel for what’s intended as a noir-ish period mystery/crime fiction series.

Not surprisingly, that first book is titled The Stiletto Gumshoe. Hey, it made sense to buy the domain in case I wanted it later, and since I have to park it somewhere, I might as well put it to use.

But I’ll call this “a writer’s blog that’s not” because too many writers’ blogs I follow and sites I visit can get a bit depressing. You’ve seen them too, I’m sure. Daily reports on the writer’s progress, crammed with tedious minutiae explaining an all-too-frequent lack of progress. Rants against the industry gatekeepers (agents and editors). Partials of work-in-progress that mean absolutely nothing to the reader since we don’t have the whole manuscript in hand and have no idea what we’re reading. Or worse, the relentless self-published self-promoters populating their blog or website with redundant cover pics and links to buy their book…which inevitably produce blogs and sites of the same damn book cover shown over and over and over…

All of those are great in small doses. Comprising all of a blog or site’s content? Not so much.

So, if the time comes when I have some exciting news to share, I’ll do so. But till then, there’s a lot to share about other things. Recent reads, interesting sites and more. And since this is called “The Stiletto Gumshoe”, it won’t surprise you to discover that I’ll focus on mystery/crime fiction books, authors, films, art, pop culture, blogs, websites and more. If my own tastes lean more towards the dark and noir-ish (however you choose to define that) rather than the ‘cozy’…well, noir culture can be found in everything from comics to fashion editorials, vintage illustration to fine arts, collectible paperbacks to television series. So, if any of that might interest you – and I hope it will – stick around.


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