Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Let's Hope This Remains Fiction

I needed a devout villain — two devout villains, actually — for my new crime novel, The Inquisitor's Key.
The novel is set in Avignon, France, where a series of French popes reigned for most of the 1300s. The plot includes two crimes, a medieval murder and a modern one, so I needed two killers. And because the book warns about the match-meets-gasoline perils of mixing religion with politics, both bad guys had to be fueled by a high-octane mixture of faithfulness and ruthlessness.
Want to know why the villains of The Inquisitor's Key could justly be called the doppelgangers of real men of the past and present? Continue reading this article over at the Tampa Bay Times to solve the mystery.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Knocking 'em dead in Nashville: True Tales from Book Tour

The book tour for The Inquisitor's Key - which led Jefferson Bass from Tennessee to Arizona, then from Georgia to Alabama and back to Tennessee and then Florida - has come to an end. 5500 miles in less than two weeks! And it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without all the kind and hospitable and hilarious folks who came out to the book-tour events. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

A couple years ago, as I was preparing to head out on book tour with Dr. Bill Bass, I got an unusual heads-up from a bookstore in Nashville: A guy I’d written about in a prior, non-fiction book was planning to show up at our Nashville book signing. The guy’s name was Sam John Passarrella, and the book chapter I’d written about him – “Fat Sam and Cadillac Joe” – recounted the abduction and killing of a fast-talking, Cadillac-driving con man who’d sold Sam a stash of stolen silver bullion...

Read the whole story of what happened during that book-tour appearance over at Author Magazine. If you had the opportunity to come out to a Jefferson Bass event this year, please leave a comment below if you'd like to share your experience. Who knows, perhaps you will find yourself in a future true tale from book tour. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Holy Shroud or clever hoax?

For centuries, believers and skeptics have played tug of war with the Shroud of Turin, a 14-foot strip of ivory-colored linen bearing the reddish-brown, bloodstained image of a crucified man. It’s the world’s most famous relic, revered by millions as the burial cloth of Jesus.

It’s also a lightning rod, sparking thorny questions of science and faith.

If the Shroud is genuine – 2,000 years old – can science prove its authenticity and miraculous origin (and thus prove the existence of God)?

Continue reading this op-ed article at Fox News here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Ultimate Game of What-If?

For a crime novelist whose main character is a bone detective, it’s the ultimate case, the greatest game of what-if: What if an ancient skeleton were unearthed, accompanied by the claim that the bones were those of Jesus? How would the bone-sleuth—specifically, my bone sleuth, Dr. Bill Brockton—corroborate or refute the claim? What forensic techniques would he harness? And who, besides him, might be interested in the bones—interested enough to kill for them?

Read more about the ultimate game of what-if in today's guest blog post over at Omnivoracious.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My First Rhyme

"I might be the only murder-mystery writer who gives primary credit (or chief blame) to Dr. Seuss, but there—I’ve said it, and I feel better, even if Theodore Geisel is turning over in his proverbial grave..."

Want to read more about how the not-so-silly rhymes of Dr. Seuss turned a young boy from a tiny town in Alabama into a writer? Today's guest post can be found over at The Quivering Pen. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Biography of My Dear, Dead Friend 31-01

Forensic fans are cut from a different cloth from ordinary folks—specifically, I suspect, from the rubberized fabric of body bags. When ordinary folks find out I write a series called the Body Farm Novels, they look squeamish and quickly change the subject. Forensic fans, on the other hand (and you know who you are, people!) tend to get a gleam in their eyes and say, “Cool. Can I take a tour?!” Unfortunately, the answer is “no,” except to people who have compelling scientific or law-enforcement reasons to go; not enough staff and too many liability concerns.

Eleven years ago, I was lucky enough to go; in fact, I spent two months there at the Body Farm — the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility — with a television crew in tow...

To continue reading about my two-month experience at the Body Farm, go on over to Crime Fiction Collective.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Release Day: May 8, 2012 -- The Inquisitor's Key -- and How YOU Can Help

Today, The Inquisitor's Key is officially on sale. As fans of the Body Farm novels already know, The Inquisitor's Key is the seventh and most ambitious novel in the New York Times bestselling series starring ace bone detective Dr. Bill Brockton, who is modeled after renowned forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm Dr. Bill Bass. To celebrate the novel's release -- and to thank you, our dear & devoted readers -- we've decided to give away a whole slew of exciting prizes (...more on that in a moment).

Many readers have asked us -- on Facebook & Twitter, and from the windows of cars speeding by on the street -- whether there will be an eighth novel in the Body Farm series. What will happen to Dr. Brockton? What will become of the illustrious and storied partnership between Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass after The Inquisitor's Key?

The truth is that the success (i.e., sales) of The Inquisitor's Key will ultimately determine the future of Jefferson Bass. In other words, each one of you, dear readers, can directly influence the future of Jefferson Bass and support the continuation of the Body Farm series.

How Can You Help?

If you enjoy the Body Farm series and want to make sure there's an eighth Jefferson Bass novel to look forward to, here are some things you can do to help. Most of these things will cost you nothing but pay great dividends for Jefferson Bass and the Body Farm series. Most of these things you can accomplish in less than a minute, but their effects will linger on and on...until the end of the Internet, which is to say forever...

Buy the book. It’s currently selling on Amazon and everywhere else books are sold for a ridiculously low price. Buy it for friends. Buy it for family. Give it as a gift to everyone you know.
Review the book. On a blog, review site, or on a sandwich board in front of your local bookstore. Any mention, especially noting whatever you really liked about the book, helps immensely.
Review it on Amazon. Go to the Amazon sales page for the book and tell other readers what you liked about it. A quick and easy way to help get the word out and create interest.
Review it on Goodreads. Go to the Goodreads page for the book and tell other readers what you liked about it. You can even copy and paste the same review from Amazon right onto Goodreads. We won't tell anyone!
Make sure local booksellers carry it. The Jefferson Bass series seems to have a strong presence in bookstores, but you can always encourage booksellers who aren’t stocking it.
Request it from your local library. Making sure your local library knows that people are excited about The Inquisitor's Key not only increases library orders -- which account for a surprising number of actual sales -- but allows multiple people in your area to enjoy the book.
Spread the word through Twitter and Facebook and your own blogs. Nothing speaks as loudly and clearly as word of mouth. Tell people about The Inquisitor's Key through social media. Share the Jefferson Bass Facebook page with your friends and family. Ask your followers to follow Jefferson Bass on Twitter. Ask people to read this excerpt of the novel. If you are a blogger, please mention The Inquisitor's Key to your readers.
Come to the book-tour events. Come have lots of fun -- with Jon & Bill & Mr. Bones -- and bring your whole stack of Body Farm novels for us to sign. Bring friends and family to the events as well (the more the merrier). Post your book-tour photos to our Facebook page. Current book-tour schedule here.
Go to the blog-tour events and leave comments. Our goal with the blog tour is 1.) to provide unique and free content for our fans and 2.) to reach readers who are unfamiliar with Jefferson Bass and the Body Farm series. Remember what we said about word of mouth? Go to these blog-tour events, even ones that have already appeared, and tell potential readers to read The Inquisitor's Key. Current blog-tour schedule here (and more to come).

Did Someone Mention Exciting Prizes?

To thank you for your help keeping the Body Farm series going strong, we'll be giving away one copy of each Body Farm novel and one copy of each of our nonfiction books!

And...we're also giving away a signed copy of:

 And...we're also giving away two never-before-seen mystery prizes to the two fans who prove to be the most devoted of all!  

NOTE: We'll be monitoring incoming reviews on various sites -- Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million -- as well as your shares & shout-outs on Facebook & Twitter, and your comments on blog-tour events. To determine the winners of each prize, we'll keep track of who is saying what, when, where & how often.

Surprisingly, many of the objectives I mentioned above can be accomplished in less than a minute. But word of mouth -- your words, your mouth &/or fingers -- will linger on and on and on for all to see and hear. Thank you for everything in advance!

* Many of the ideas for keeping The Body Farm series going strong originated at Jeff Vandermeer's blog Ecstatic Days.

Location, location, location

It's RELEASE DAY, folks, and we're taking a moment to wax nostalgic about researching The Inquisitor's Key in Avignon -- le vin, le fromage -- over at The Book Case. Seems like forever since the days of researching Carved in Bone in the beautiful but hard-scrabble hill country of Cocke County, Tennessee.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Q&A with Julianna Baggott

Tomorrow -- on May 8, 2012, or release day(!) -- the Jefferson Bass book tour for The Inquisitor's Key begins, with a 7:30 a.m. event at the Farragut Chamber of Commerce in Knoxville, Tennessee followed by a 7 p.m. event that evening at the New Hope Center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Before hitting the airport, Jon Jefferson sat down for an interrogation, er, Q&A with novelist, essayist and poet Julianna Baggott. There's talk of writing & reading &, of course, The Inquisitor's Key, along with an unexpected treat: a little foray into the realm of freestyle rap. You may have to wait a while for Body Farm: the album, but you only have to wait 12 more hours for The Inquisitor's Key! And you don't have to wait at all to check out the Q&A found HERE.   

Confronting Evil -- Fictional and Real -- in the City of the Popes

Talking about ancient and modern villains over at the Indigo Blog, specifically the villains of The Inquisitor's Key, and how -- long after Jon's preacher-boy days -- those villains roused questions in his mind about the true nature of good and evil.

Question: Who are your favorite literary villains of all time?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Stabbed ribs, barbecued bodies, and other forensic adventures

The "Inquisi-Key" blog-tour bus has stopped by Susanne Drazic's blog Putting Words on Paper, and Jon's reminiscing about lunch with Dr. Bill Bass at a Knoxville barbecue restaurant. While chowing down on ribs, the two men discussed murder cases and forensic anthropology -- normal lunch-table conversation, sure.
   Go on over and read all about it right here. The bus is almost gassed-up and ready to head out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Giveaway: "The Inquisitor's Key"

As Inspector René Descartes would say, “Bonjour, mes amis!” … I’m not exactly certain what he’d say next—it’s been too long since the glory days of researching The Inquisitor’s Key in Avignon! & even longer since high school French with Mademoiselle LaFlamme (oh la la, those mini-jupes she wore). But I digress … I always digress …

Lemme guess: You’re not here solely to admire my stunning good looks in the photo on the left. You’re also here for the giveaway contest! Good timing. In anticipation of the May 8, 2012 release of The Inquisitor’s Key, I’m sponsoring a giveaway of the new novel to reward each and every one of you who downloaded and read the e-story prequel entitled Madonna and Corpse. We hope you had as much fun reading it as I did—well, honestly—when I pressed SAVE for the last time, then stood up feeling accomplished and went to get a cold beer from the fridge. (Sure, I said it: I, Mr. Bones, actually write all the novels, not Jon and Bill! They just sat back and drank all the beer in my fridge, apparently. Just as well...I don’t have the stomach for alcohol these days. Seems to go right through me…)

Now wait a minute. I sense that some of you are thinking, “I haven’t downloaded and read Madonna and Corpse, but I want to win The Inquisitor’s Key!” Wait a doggone minute. If you have not already downloaded and read Madonna and Corpse, do NOT go bananas. I’ve come up with a two-step plan to remedy this situation and thus save yourself from a complete breakdown.
  1. Click the following link to download Madonna and Corpse (99 cents – how can you lose?!?) from the e-retailer of your choice.
  2. Start reading!

Pretty simple, right?
(If you don't own an e-reader, once again do NOT go bananas. You can download this free Kindle app for your PC & read Madonna and Corpse right on your home computer!)

From Limbo with Love

The blog-tour bus has arrived at Poe's Deadly Daughters.

- A few years ago I complained to a friend – an old, wise friend – that I felt myself at a crossroads, unsure which direction to head. I was utterly in limbo, I told him – and I really hated the limbo. He listened, then he was quiet for a minute; finally he said, “You’re in the place of not-knowing, and you need to hang out there for awhile.”

Continue reading at Poe's Deadly Daughters.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Talking Shop: Plan A, Plan Be, Plan See

Today, Jon's talking shop -- three tricks he's learned about writing novels while writing novels -- over at Elise VanCise's blog Gladiator's Pen.

- I have writer friends whose workspaces are immaculate. I have friends who write every day, including one who gets up at 5:30 a.m. and writes for two hours before heading to his day job as a lawyer. I have friends who make detailed outlines. I have friends who start at the beginning and write their way forward, in perfect linearity, to the end. That is to say, I have friends who are neater, more disciplined, better organized, and generally much smarter than I am! ...

Continue reading at Gladiator's Pen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Today, Jon Jefferson's in the interrogation room over at Kristin Bair O'Keeffe's blog Writerhead.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Putting Faces on the Dead

We're back in the U.S...back in the U.S. of A. for this post over at crime writer Jen J. Danna's blog Skeleton Keys. Along with this forensics-related post, we're releasing an exclusive excerpt from The Inquisitor's Key.

-One of the hallmarks of the Body Farm novels is that the fiction incorporates realistic and detailed forensic techniques. The new book, The Inquisitor’s Key, is no exception. One of the techniques that’s used is radiocarbon dating—also called carbon-14 dating, or C-14 dating...

Continue reading at Skeleton Keys.

Monday, April 23, 2012

E-Publishing, Take 1: An e-story excerpt from "Madonna and Corpse," and a book giveaway!

A few months ago, my editor asked if I’d consider writing an original short story—something connected to The Inquisitor’s Key in some way. The story would be published electronically (for Kindle, Nook, and iPad/iPhone readers) shortly before the book’s pub date, to help build reader interest. It sounded interesting, so I said “sure!” and starting writing. The resulting e-story—“Madonna and Corpse”—is a “prequel” to the novel. Set in Avignon, France, it stars the French detective, Inspector René Descartes, working a baffling art-forgery case just before his world collides with that of the book’s heroes, Dr. Bill Brockton and Miranda Lovelady. Here’s the beginning of Madonna and Corpse; if you like this sneak peek, please download the e-story (99 cents – how can you lose?!?) and you could win a free signed copy of The Inquisitor’s Key. The giveaway quiz-contest will be open to everyone who downloads/reads Madonna and Corpse and emails us correct answers to the quiz questions. Questions will be posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, so start reading! (If you don't own an e-reader, don't lose hope. You can download this free Kindle app for your PC & read the Madonna and Corpse right on your home computer!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Knights Templar and the Body Farm

Today, the blog-tour bus goes amphibious as Jon heads across the (virtual) pond to chat with the folks at Shots - Crime & Thriller E-Zine about weaving together the Knights Templar and the Body Farm.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fact/Fiction: The beautifully blurry line

 Today, the blog-tour bus skidded to a stop at Janice Bashman's blog The Writing Life, and I'm talking about the blurry line between fact & fiction -- in writing, life, and religion.

Here's a taste:

-Writing The Inquisitor's Key – a crime novel set in France – required a research trip to Avignon, a walled city in Provence, nestled in a bend of the Rhone River. The task loomed, daunting, even overwhelming – all those wines! all that cheese! – but someone had to do it, right? So in May 2011, I dusted off my passport, packed my French phrase book (“La toilette?”), and headed off for a grueling week. Seriously, folks: authentic forensic detail and meticulous research are trademarks of the Body Farm novels, so I had to go. Really I did...

Read the rest of the article at The Writing Life.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gone Roadtrippin' : Blog & Book Tour 2012!

If you’ve been lurking around the blog lately, you may have noticed that no one's been home for a few days—weeds sprouting up in the flowerbeds, the mailbox bulging. Don’t worry, though. We didn’t intend to pack up and ride out without leaving a little note.

In anticipation of the May 8, 2012 release of The Inquisitor’s Key, I've decided to embark on a tour across the blogosphere...before I leave for the continental United States book tour. I'm nailing this note to the outside of the (virtual) Body Farm gate: an invitation to each and every one of you. 

Meet up with us on The Inquisitor’s Key Blog Tour 2012—without even leaving your chair!—and then find us on The Inquisitor’s Key Book Tour 2012 in a city near you. On the blog tour, not only will you have the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the new Body Farm novel, but you’ll get inside access to exclusive interviews, book reviews, and book giveaway contests. On the book tour, you’ll be able to meet us—Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bass, the men behind the mysteries of Jefferson Bass—and pick up a signed copy (or two..or ten) of The Inquisitor’s Key.

Calendar of Blog-Tour Events

I’d be honored, dear readers, if you'd leave comments on the guest blog posts below in support of Jefferson Bass, the Body Farm series, and The Inquisitor’s Key! We're trying to get the word out to those who are not familiar—yet—with the Body Farm novels and the great work being done at the Body Farm, but we need your help. Visit these blogs in April and May and show readers that Jefferson Bass has the most diehard fans of all. Tell the world to read The Inquisitor’s Key!

April 7, 2012 – Guest post @ My Bookish Ways
April 9, 2012 – Guest post @ Book Bitch Blog
April 11, 2012 – Review of The Inquisitor’s Key @ Chaotic Compendiums
April 17, 2012 – Fact/Fiction: The beautifully blurry line - in writing, life, & religion @ The Writing Life
April 17, 2012: Review of The Inquisitor's Key @ Jenn's Bookshelves
April 20, 2012: Weaving Together the Knights Templar and the Body Farm @ SHOTS Crime & Thriller Ezine
April 23, 2012: Review of The Inquisitor's Key @ Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
April 24, 2012: Putting Faces on the Dead - in fact and in fiction @ Skeleton Keys
April 25, 2012: Writerhead Wednesday @ Writerhead
April 26, 2012: The Story Behind the Story: The Inquisitor's Key @ The Rap Sheet
April 28, 2012: Q&A @ Author's Corner
April 29, 2012: Plan A. Plan Be. Plan See. @ Gladiator's Pen
May 2, 2012: From Limbo with Love @ Poe's Deadly Daughters
May 3, 2012: Picture the Book: The Inquisitor's Key @ The Divining Wand
May 5, 2012: Stabbed Ribs, Barbecued Bodies & Other Forensic Adventures @ Putting Words Down on Paper
May 6, 2012: Review of The Inquisitor's Key Book Nerd
May 6, 2012: Guest post @ BookPeople's Blog
May 7, 2012:  Guest post @ Indigo Fiction Blog
May 7, 2012: Q&A @ Julianna Baggott's Blog
May 8, 2012: Guest post @ CrimeSpree Magazine
May 8, 2012: Guest post @ The Book Case
May 9, 2012: Guest post @ Crime Fiction Collective
May 9, 2012: Review of The Inquisitor's Key @ Dew on the Kudzu
May 10, 2012: Guest post @ The Writer's Forensics Blog
May 11, 2012: Review of The Inquisitor's Key @ Luxury Reading
May 11, 2012: Q&A @ Mystery Tribune
May 14, 2012: My First Time @ The Quivering Pen
May 14, 2012: Guest article @ Beatrice
May 15, 2012: Guest post @ Pattinase
May 15, 2012: Featured article @ Author Magazine

Calendar of Book-Tour Events

If you’re planning to attend one of our book-tour events this year, please click the appropriate event link below, then JOIN the event on Facebook so we know how many to expect at the party! We want to see YOU in the crowd. Please comment at the end of this post as well to let everyone know which event you’ll be attending. Let's see a show of hands!

Farragut Chamber of Commerce

12284 North Fox Den Drive

Knoxville, Tennessee

May 8, 2012 at 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

2.      Fundraising Benefit in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

New Hope Center

602 Scarboro Road

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Tuesday -- May 8, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.

Purchase tickets to this benefit here.

3.      Jefferson Bass in Scottsdale, Arizona

Poisoned Pen

4014 N. Goldwater Blvd

Scottsdale, Arizona 85251

            Wednesday -- May 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.

4.      Jefferson Bass in Woodstock, Georgia

Fox Tale Book Shoppe

105 E. Main St.

Woodstock, Georgia

Thursday -- May 10, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.

5.      Lunch with Jefferson Bass in Decatur, Georgia

Capozzi’s Decatur

1355 Clairmont Road

Decatur, Georgia 30033

Friday – May 11, 2012 at noon – 3:00 p.m.

6.      Jefferson Bass in Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville Madison County Public Library

915 Monroe St.

Huntsville, Alabama 35801

Friday – May 11, 2012 at 7:00p.m.

7.      Jefferson Bass in Nashville, Tennessee

Parnassus Books

3900 Hillsboro Pike

Nashville, Tennessee 37215

Saturday – May 12, 2012 at 4:00 p.m.

8.      Jefferson Bass in Knoxville, Tennessee


11244 Kingston Pike

Knoxville, Tennessee

Sunday – May 13, 2012 at 3:00 p.m.

9.      Jefferson Bass in Knoxville, Tennessee (2nd appearance)


8513 Kingston Pike

Knoxville, Tennessee 37919

Sunday – May 13, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.

10.  Jefferson Bass in Maryville, Tennessee


501 N. Foothills Plaza Drive

Maryville, Tennessee 37801

Monday – May 14, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.

11.  Jefferson Bass in Coral Gables, Florida

Books & Books

265 Aragon Ave.

Coral Gables, Florida 33134

Tuesday – May 15, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.

12.  Jefferson Bass in Vero Beach, Florida

The Vero Beach Book Center

2145 Indian River Blvd.

Vero Beach, Florida 32960

Wednesday – May 16, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.

13.  Jefferson Bass in Tallahassee, Florida


3531 Thomasville Road

Tallahassee, Florida 32309

Saturday – May 19, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.

Friday, March 23, 2012

High-Noon Showdown -- Win a signed copy of "The Bone Yard"

Howdy! I reckon you've come to join the high-noon showdown. The way I see it, the more the merrier when it comes to gunslingin'. Now before you get to scratchin' your itchy trigger finger, take a seat and hear me out. But -- for the love of Pete -- don't sit on that cactus.
     In anticipation of the March 27, 2012 paperback release of The Bone Yard,  Mr. Bones is giving away signed copies of the novel. To make this fun instead of dangerous, I'm suggesting that we all set aside our six-shooters and draw from a different sort of holster, the holster of memory.
     The rules of the showdown are simple. This is your chance to become the storyteller at the side of our virtual campfire. What do I mean? In the COMMENTS section of this blog entry, I want you to let loose and draw from your holster of memory. Tell us a story.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Bone Yard" Book Giveaway

Mr. Bones has agreed to host a few book-giveaway contests here on the blog in March and April. We'll be giving away copies of The Inquisitor's Key in the coming weeks, so check back as often as humanly possible without becoming completely obsessed...

Today, however, in anticipation of the paperback release of The Bone Yard on March 27, 2012, Mr. Bones will give away his beloved copy of the novel to one aspiring sleuth! I promise you one thing -- it's not going to be easy to win. In fact, it might become downright dangerous. So-- do you think you have what it takes to win this literary treasure hunt?


                                              Rules of Participation:

1. LIKE Jefferson Bass on Facebook if you haven't already.

2. SHARE Jefferson Bass on your Facebook Wall for your friends to see. To SHARE Jefferson Bass, copy and paste this link into your next status update: 
         *Include a variation of this message: Please LIKE this page so I can win The Bone Yard! 

3. Read the following excerpt from The Bone Yard. Answer the questions that follow, then send your answers and your name as it appears on Facebook to

4. Then post a comment -- anything you want -- on this blog entry so we have a tally of contestants.

Pretty simple, right? Thanks for playing along, and good luck! The randomly selected winner(s?) will be announced tomorrow!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Get Your Popcorn & Tell Your Friends: Time to watch the video trailer! (And participate in the reader poll below. Please comment/vote!)

I’d planned to write this time about one of the new book’s medieval characters: Petrarch, a 14th-century chaplain, poet, historian, and philosopher (a true Renaissance Man – a century before there WAS a Renaissance!) But Petrarch’ll have to wait, because I’m pre-empting him to roll out the new video trailer for the book. Two trailers, actually: one for The Inquisitor’s Key, and one for The Bones of Avignon, the U.K. edition. (As with the books, so with the trailers: the only difference is the title & release date. But hey, watch ‘em both!)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Glory and the Power: Heavenly Daze and Worldly Ways in Avignon

The glory and the power: Avignon Cathedral (left) sits beside -- and is dwarfed by -- the formidable Palace of the Popes.
 Character assassination, mudslinging, Machiavellian machinations, and ruthless power plays: I’m talking about the current U.S. presidential primaries, right? Not exactly, but more on that in a minute. I’m talking—mainly—about the deadly struggles that sent the 14th-century papacy scurrying from Rome to Avignon, France: Avignon, the spectacular walled city where medieval mystery meets modern-day murder in The Inquisitor’s Key.

 At the end of the 13th century, Rome—like other Italian city-states—was torn between two powerful factions, the Ghibellines and the Guelphs. To oversimplify shamelessly—nay, proudly (hey, it’s a blog, not a history book!)—the Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Emperor, while the Guelphs backed the Pope: rival leaders, each claiming to be God’s Main Man here on Earth. In 1298 Pope Boniface VIII destroyed two entire towns, Colonna and Palestrina—he even spread salt on the surrounding lands to ruin them—because they were strongholds of the Colonna family, nobles who sided with his enemies, the Ghibellines. Then Boniface took on an even mightier foe: King Philip IV of France. When King Philip imposed a tax on Church revenues, Pope Boniface excommunicated him, declaring in a 1302 proclamation that it "is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman pontiff." 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Covers, or, Which book would you be more likely to pick up in a bookstore … and why?

Okay, it’s reader participation time, for any of you who are game!

Quickly – before you read any further (no cheating!) – glance at these two book covers. If you had just enough time to take a look inside only one of them, which one would it be, and why? Hold that thought, and after you finish reading, tell us your answer in the “Comments” section. Your feedback will make for interesting market-research data!

And now, A Tale of Two Covers

 You might think that a book’s title would be the first, and easiest thing to write, but you’d be wrong, at least in my experience. The first Body Farm novel’s title, Carved in Bone, came fairly easily. Title number two, Flesh and Bone, was also fairly easy. But after that, they got tougher. If you’ve followed the series, you’ve probably noticed that all six of the prior novels have “bone” or “bones” in the title – a way of giving some continuity to the series, and also of underscoring the emphasis on forensic anthropology: bone-detective work. But sometimes that’s been a stretch, especially with novel #5, Bones of Betrayal, which included a subplot about World War II espionage and treachery. It was one of my favorite books in the series, but my least favorite title; it seemed clunky and labored, and I’ve wished countless times that I’d argued more forcefully for the title I wanted, which was Fallout. But at that point we were still committed to a “bone(s)” title, so I lost the argument.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Babylon-on-the-Rhone: Avignon

The treasures of the Vatican didn’t remotely prepare me for the awesomeness of Avignon, the spectacular setting of The Inquisitor’s Key  and its (virtually identical) UK twin, The Bones of Avignon.

The year was 1998. I’d recently started writing and producing documentaries for A&E, the Arts & Entertainment Network, and I’d just been handed the best of projects and the worst of projects: a two-hour A&E special about the Vatican. Cool subject; gorgeous footage; serious script problems. Three other writer/producers had already come to grief on the shoals of the project; it was a high-budget, high-stakes, and high-likelihood-of-failure gig. The production company I was working for, an ambitious young outfit called Jupiter Entertainment, had somehow wrangled a backstage pass to shoot in the Vatican, but the shoot had to be done quickly. There was no shooting script; there wasn’t even an outline for the show. The initial crew was sent to Rome with instructions to “shoot everything.” The only plan was to figure out a plan later, once the footage was in hand.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Road to Avignon … and to The Inquisitor’s Key

My mother cried when I announced, at the end of my freshman year in college, that I was changing my major from pre-med to English. “But how will you make a living?” she wailed.

I shrugged. “I don’t know,” I conceded. “But I’m pretty smart. I’ll probably figure out something.”

Over the years, that “something” has ranged from editing technical reports to teaching teenagers about sex and HIV/AIDS to making television documentaries about aircraft carriers and Vatican art treasures. Now, years later – jaw-droppingly many years later – I’ve just finished writing The Inquisitor’s Key, the seventh crime novel in the Body Farm series. More about the book momentarily, because it’s my favorite of the bunch, and it’s the reason I’m launching this blog – to share behind-the-scenes stories with readers between now and when the book comes out on May 8. But first, a bit of background on the series itself.