Thursday, July 28, 2011


Signed copies available from
As of last month, my debut thriller novel, IDENTITY: LOST has been available in Hardcover and Kindle versions.  To say I'm excited is an understatement.  This journey has been one remarkable serendipitous event after another.

I've had fun quoting Oprah's "There's no such thing as a coincidence" mantra and I will tell you I have fully embraced this belief with Lady O.  She has been the world's #1 proponent (besides my own personal life coach and wife, Karen) of the belief of intention. I believed that imagination was best left to children and seldom harnessed in adulthood.

Then it all changed about five years ago.

Things started to happen that felt coincidental but had a distinctly stronger message for me than just mere happenstance occurrences.   The first was when I attended Game 5 of the 2005 ALCS Championship when the Chicago White Sox (a major theme in IDENTITY: LOST)  visited the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  If the White Sox won this game then they would be playing in their first World Series in 46 years. Chance got me and a friend not only into a game when we were told no tickets were available but had us sitting in the opposition owner's box seats with his family.
The White Sox won and that event spurred me on to write a story about it. That story turned into half-a-dozen more I wrote over the next year on a White Sox fan web site. By this time my desire to write had been rekindled and I began to think about this story I had locked away, figuratively and literally, for over twenty-five-years.  Back in the '70s when I was a young father, a boy had witnessed a murder and decided to come forward as a witness.  But, tragically, his desire to do good turned into a life-changing situation; one not so good for him and his family.

Pascal signs at The Poisoned Pen on  August 8th, at 7pm
At the time of my “light bulb moment,” I had recently sold my business, which provided me with a very modest profit, not enough to retire on but enough to possibly give me a brief amount of time to not have to work full-time, at least for a year, maybe two. I took that time to find my notes I had kept along with newspaper clippings about that story only to find that after moving a few times over those 25 years I had misplaced the documents.  The power of the Internet and the help from a friend's daughter who attended a Chicago university, allowed me access to the Chicago Tribune's historical archives.

I plunged headlong into finding the details of that crime that had been committed along the shores of Lake Michigan in Burnham Park. Along the way, I discovered this rich, long forgotten history of the area where the crime was committed. That took me down another road and re-ignited my love of history, especially local Chicago and American history.  I was completely hooked and spent every moment I could researching and writing and reading.

It was at about this same time I stumbled upon a brochure (yes, a printed brochure) inviting would-be writers to join the Scottsdale Writers Group, which held its meeting every other Tuesday. I was now back to work, keeping afloat a fledgling Internet business I had started on the side and this was taking up the majority of my time. But I was too deep into my pledge to myself to not quit on this dream of writing this story. So, with some trepidation, I walked into the group one day and announced I'd like to join.  I was welcomed with warm smiles but more so by such an unselfish group of people who were willing to help me (as well as themselves) develop their writing skills and story ideas.

After two years of bringing in a new chapter every other week, I was done, and my novel (with the working title "The Murder of Manny Fleischman--Last of the Black Sox") was complete.  How naive I was because from that point forward the real work had only just begun.

That was in March, 2008 and about two months later I had another serendipitous event occur that would change my life forever. I was summering in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and one day saw another small little poster at the local Fontana, Wisconsin Public Library announcing that New York Times best-selling author Brad Thor would be signing his latest book.  I had never heard of Brad Thor but I knew I had to go to this event. When would you ever expect to meet a NY Times best-selling author in Fontana, Wisconsin?  So with my wife and brother-in-law in tow, we went to meet Mssr. Thor. 

It was a very small book-signing for his latest book, THE FIRST COMMANDMENT, but that fact gave me an opportunity to speak with Brad.  I told him I had never heard of him but that as a budding writer I felt compelled to meet a real author, let alone a best-selling one. The words gracious and warm don't do justice to describing Brad's demeanor with me that day and when he found out I had a completed manuscript he immediately recommended I attend ThrillerFest in NYC. He promised me if I attended to "look him up" and he'd be happy to help me in any way he could.

Pascal with fellow author Douglas Preston.
"IDENTITY: LOST by Pascal Marco is a grand slam of a novel, swift and sure and true to life, with spot-on characters, an evocative setting, and a relentless plot swirling around the brutal killing of the last surviving member of the Chicago Black Sox team. Imbued with a deep love and understanding of the South Side of Chicago, homicide cops, and the history of baseball, this novel is as true as it is gripping. Don't miss it!"-- Douglas Preston, co-author of The Monster of Florence and Fever Dream
When I got to my computer and investigated this event, I was blown away at the cost. Of course, it was less than two weeks away and putting a last minute trip to NYC for an event of this magnitude added to the financial challenge. We were stretching dollars (squeezing a more appropriate word) at this point and as far as I was concerned, if there was a definition of a trip we could not afford, this one was it.  But my partner and best friend, my wife Karen, scoffed at me, dismissing the idea of not going.  "He invited you, didn't he?" she reminded me.  "If you really want to get this manuscript publish you have to go."
Well, that was just the beginning. 

I went to ThrillerFest in July 2008. I paid the last minute airfare, booked the mid-town Manhattan hotel, sent in my non-member attendee fee, landed at La Guardia, and hailed a cab. And here I am now, getting to see my novel on bookstore shelves across the country.

There are no coincidences anywhere in this tale. It is just a story of a naive guy who grew up on the southeast side of Chicago who always kept believing even someone like him could make his intentions come true.


YA Reviews from Lorri!

The Reapers Are the Angels ($15) by Alden Bell 
This post-apocalyptic zombie novel by Alden Bell is powerful! Through the eyes of Temple we witness the horrific extinction of the human race, yet still find quiet moments to marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world that can only be reflections of God Himself. Brilliantly depict, this story is as beautiful as it is sad

White Cat by Holly Black (Curse Workers, Book 1)
17 yr old Cassel is the youngest of a magic-worker family. Having no power himself, he is at the mercy of his old brothers, or so he thinks...I loved this darkly imagined world! If you find you also enjoyed this story then you should try Holly Black's Modern Tales of Fairie (Tithe,Valiant and Ironside.)

Hunger ($8.99) by Jackie Morse Kessler. (Riders of the Apocalypse Book 1)
This series deals with teens and teen issues and the awkwardness of discovering that you have become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Begin with Hunger the story of seventeen-year-old Lisabeth who suffers from anorexia and  is victim of an inner Thin Voice that holds her to both a strict eating regime and a exhaustive exercise regiment. When death shows up with a set of scales and a midnight steed, Lisabeth relives that her obsession is out of control and that she may lose her life if not conquered.  Don't miss Rage the story of Missy a cutter.

Cate Tiernan's Sweep is a lovely witchy teen series that is as addictive as is is delightful. 16 year old 
Morgan Rowlands thinks she's average until she meets Cal, the new boy at school who is not only captivatingly handsome but a coven leader. With his guidance Morgan soon discovers that she is a bloodwitch with a disturbing history and a nautal power that is beyond both of their control.

Among Others by Jo Walton In this magical Welsh coming-of-age tale we meet 15-year-old Morwenna, bright, crippled and somewhat geeky she endearingly relates to the world through the applied works of a host of science-fiction masters which isn't such a bad thing since she is magical and has to thwart the attacks of her evil witch mother...

or for a lovely sampling pick up a copy of Teeth: Vampire Tales edited by Ellen Datlow
In this YA anthology, Ellen Datlow has assembled 19 fresh and clever stories, some from my favorite YA authors, to create a collection of young and hip vampire tales. Featuring stories from Garth Nix, Melissa Marr, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Lucius Shepard,Emma Bull and Tanith Lee.

To order any of these titles from The Poisoned Pen please drop an email to 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Westing Game for Adults, Dominance Will Change the Way You Read

A review of Will Lavender's Dominance by Chantelle Aimee Osman 

What if you could read a book and treat it as a competition between you and its author?” 
This is the question at the heart of Will Lavender’s second novel, Dominance. Like in his debut, Obedience, which was a 2008 New York Times Bestseller, we once again find ourselves on a college campus.

Will Lavender signs Dominance, at
The Poisoned Pen 7/26 at 7:00pm. Click
here for details. To order a signed copy
It is 1994, and Vermont’s small Jasper College has decided to offer an experimental night class, “Unraveling a Literary Mystery”, to only nine handpicked students. The class is shrouded in controversy as the professor, famed literary scholar Richard Aldiss, will be teaching via video feed from prison, where he has been serving a life sentence since 1982 for the murder of two female graduate students. The victims killed with an axe and their bodies’ decorated with the works of reclusive author Paul Fallows. It is Fallows around whom the night class revolves. His two novels, The Coil and The Golden Silence, are believed by scholars to be riddled with clues. The goal of the class? For the students to follow the clues and learn Fallow’s true identity. 

Aldiss inducts the students into the Procedure, a game played by Fallow scholars where the players reenact scenes from the novels - but the game becomes dangerous, and lines begin to blur when students realize they have been playing far longer than they knew. Alex Shipley quickly emerges as the student fated to complete the task set by the professor, and follows the twisted path to solve the riddle of Fallow’s identity - acquitting Richard Aldiss of the murders in the process.

In the present day, a student from the night class is found murdered - the body arranged in the same way the graduate students’ had been years before. Alex, now a professor at Harvard, returns to Jasper at the request of the police to investigate Aldiss and her former classmates, who have all been brought together for the funeral. Had she been wrong fifteen years ago, has the Procedure begun again, and how many of the nine will survive?

Lavender created a fabulously diverse cast of characters for the night class. Calling them together to stay in a mansion inhabited by an eccentric, makeup-wearing dean makes the modern story line reminiscent of one of Christie’s manor house mysteries. Dominance is truly a feat of psychological suspense (though Lavender prefers to call his genre “puzzle thrillers”) - you think you know what happened fifteen years before, but as Lavender unveils each clue, the faster the finger of guilt changes direction. Dominance keeps you guessing to the end . . . or is it just the beginning?

If you liked Dominance, consider:

Obedience by Will Lavender
The Magus by John Fowles
39 Clues by Rick Riordan (Y.A.)
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Y.A.)
The Game (1997 film, which some believe was loosely based on The Magus)

For the hard-boiled fan...

A huge event featuring four authors was 'one of the best events' a long-time customer had ever been to. Though not available online, you can get a sense of it from the video. Keith Rawson, hard-boiled writer and media guru,  conducted a brief interview with Duane Swierczynski from the humble shipping room at The Poisoned Pen. Other authors in attendance were Harry Dolan, Michael Wiley and Thomas Kaufman. Click here to see which signed titles of Duane's we have on hand. (Many of the trade-paperbacks were signed, but that is not indicated on the website. If you want to check on one, give us a call. 888-560-9919

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poisoned Pen and Bards Books Owners React to Borders' Official Closure

Categories: LiteraryNews
The Ewan via flickr
Today, Borders Books sent out the inevitable announcement: "We're-closing-up-shop." After filing for bankruptcy in February, those in the book-publishing world followed news of the company through its rough patch, and ultimately to its death.

"I wasn't a bit surprised," says Barbara Peters, owner of Poisoned Pen, located at 4014 Goldwater Blvd in Scottsdale. "I've been saying for the past five years that the chain store model is over."

Peters places most of the blame of Borders' closure on growing technology, saying that the Internet and Amazon's Kindle have made book selling more economical. 

Stocking shelves is a thing of the past, she says, and bringing authors to their audiences (a typical occurrence at Poisoned Pen) is the future.

See complete article here...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011



                  Ken Mercer recently visited the Poisoned Pen (his second trip) for what became a wide ranging and free-wheeling discussion/interview about his new book.  He proved to be one of the most open and engaging novelists to ever brighten the store.  On his first trip here in 2010, he and Barbara Peters, the owner, partook in an exchange on the ins and outs of editing and publishing.  It was an exciting and very interesting presentation.  Coming to see both your favorite and new authors often leads to insights into their works.  Come to a signing and see for yourself.

                  Mercer's first book, "Slow Fire", came out last year.  It tells the story of Will Magowan, an ex-undercover Los Angeles narcotics detective whose life is left in ruins after a series of horrific events.  As a last chance at redemption he accepts an offer to become a police chief in a tiny town in northern California.  He arrives in Haydenville to find an Edenic paradise in the midst of a meth nightmare.  With only an inexperienced deputy for help and a mayor who has him on a short leash, he attempts to figure out what is going on and to stop it.  His main nemesis and suspect is an ex-con, and now famous writer, named Frank Carver. Carver is an amalgam of William Burroughs, Norman Mailer, and Jack Abbott.  Mercer does a brilliant job in not only creating this all too vivid character but, through him, channeling all the rampant paranoia that encircled and permeated the 1960's.  Having lived through and been heavily involved in the era's turbulence I found his evocation of these times to be extremely well done.  The author, too young to have been around then, somehow manages to capture the feelings of those years in a very profound and meaningful way.

                 As the past effects and illuminates the present Will struggles to find answers to the drug scourge.  The story chugs along at the pace of a page-turning tornado and runs headlong into a thrilling and unexpected conclusion.  This was one of the best debuts of 2010.

                  Will Magowan is an often self-destructive, extremely flawed and obsessed man.  This is his curse and his salvation.  In his new book, "East On Sunset", Mercer continues Will's story and returns him to Los Angeles.  This sequel came as a surprise to me as I did not see the character as part of a series.  However Mercer uses all of Will's present and past problems as a springboard for a fast paced and very exciting novel.

                  Will, now back with his wife, is at loose ends after leaving Haydenville.  He finds a job as a security guard for the L.A. Dodgers but a visit from an ex-con drug dealer he busted years ago sets off a chain of events that take him back into the life he so desperately fought to escape.

                  The ex-con, Erick Crandell, wants  money for the drugs he thinks Will and his partner, Ray Miller, stole from him when he was arrested.  This leads to a cat and mouse tale of police corruption, political payoffs, and non-stop action.  Crandell is a delusional body-builder and a very twisted individual. As Will's stubborn personality butts heads with Crandell's single-minded desire to get what he believes is his, a perfectly executed and violent dance ensues. Will's wife, now pregnant, becomes a pawn in the battle.

                   Both Will and Erick have an appeal that makes them sympathetic in a very strange way.  This speaks to the narrative skills of the author.

Signed copies are still available from
The Poisoned Pen. Click here
                   The novel is written in a compelling style that grabs the reader and makes it very hard to put down.. The final scenes of the book are truly riveting as this neatly twisted tale corkscrews to a breathless finale.  In these two novels Ken Mercer has g iven the master page-turner, Michael Connolly, a run for his money.  Both books mark an auspicious start of  what I hope will be a long career.

 For further reading I suggest Dave Zeltserman and his Ex-con trilogy.  These three books, "Small Crimes", "Pariah", and "Killer", are modern masterpieces of neo-noir writing. (Click to order)  They may serve as a primer on the ongoing power and possibilities inherent in the genre.

                                   - STEVE SHADOW SCHWARTZ

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Amish-Country Mystery

Harmless as Doves
An Amish-Country Mystery

By P. L. Gaus

In Harmless as Doves, P. L. Gaus’s seventh Amish-Country Mystery, a murder investigation originates in the chilly autumn of Holmes County, Amish country. As the mystery of Glenn Spiegle’s death unfolds, the search for answers veers south, to the sunshine and white sands of Florida, where clues are sought near an established Amish community. Before long, a tense search explodes into spectacular action in the turquoise waters of Sarasota Bay.

As always, Gaus—who has been called the “Tony Hillerman of the Amish”—balances the crime narrative with insights into Amish culture. In Harmless as Doves, the subjects of depression, remorse, and sexism are issues the characters struggle to come to terms with as the story progresses.

The Poisoned Pen will be carrying signed copies of the 7th in PL Gaus' series. If you missed him at the store last time, fret not, we shot some video. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Shadow Revurb ( = revurb)


Click to order a signed copy($23.99)
 from The Poisoned Pen 

 Megan Abbott's new book is quite a departure from her previous four novels.  Her first three novels, "Die a Little", "The Song is You", and "Queenpin" were much praisedstories told in the Hollywood 40's and 50's noir tradition.  They stand out from the genre in their detailed depiction of the lead characters, their sense of time and place, and in the way she uses the language of the day. The fact that they are told from a woman's point of view only enhances their unique voice. In her fourth novel, "Bury Me Deep", Abbott fictionalizes the famous Winnie Ruth Judd case and in so doing retrieves the feel of Phoenix in the 1930's in an enthralling and compelling manner.  All four of these beautifully realized books are available and are must reading for any fan of Chandler, Cain, or classic film noir.
 In her new book (Due on July 7, 2011), Abbott moves to a contemporary setting.  The novels action takes place in a midwestern suburb but carries us to the farthest shores of the human heart.  Megan Abbott's brilliant control over her material is breath-taking.  This is writing of the highest order:  Not a word out of place, not a word unnecessary.  In this book she goes way beyond her neo-noir roots and brings forth an American masterpiece.  Her thirteen year old protagonist, Lizzie Hood, speaks to us with a voice so authentic its precociousness and vulnerability shine like a beacon.  When Lizzie's best friend, Evie Verver, goes missing she takes it upon herself to solve the mystery.  The events that ensue take us into the molten core of the American nuclear family in the 21st century.

Megan Abbott visits The Poisoned Pen
July 19th at 7pm. See event here
    As with all great writing the levels of sub-text reveal themselves slowly.  As a mystery the book is a tight, fast moving grabber; It will not let go and it is hard to put down. However this is but a framework upon which Abbott explores, in the most subtle of fashions, the yearning to belong and to be loved.  She shows us how fine the line is between proper parental love, sibling rivalry, and our deepest desires and the consequences when these emotions boil out of control.

    With each new book Megan Abbott's skill and talent have grown.  In "The End of Everything", she takes herself to the top of modern American literature.This is as close to a perfect book as I have read this year.  Poisoned Pen will have signed copies when it comes out.  Buy it. 
     For another view of a similar subject told in a vastly different but very effective way, I suggest Laura Lippman's "Every Secret Thing".

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tess Gerritsen at The Pen

A sellout crowd came to The Poisoned Pen to meet Tess Gerritsen as well as have their books signed. She discussed a number of things, one of which, how the TNT hit show Rizzoli and Iles  matches up to her books.  There were several "Team Jane" or "Team Maura" T-Shirts she gave away.

An interview below gives more in depth info about Tess and Rizzoli and Iles. To watch the full event from last night click the webcast tab.

Click to order a signed, first edition copy
of The Silent Girl. 
A handful of Tess' latest book, The Silent Girl, of which Barbara said could be the 'book of a lifetime' are still available. To order a signed copy click here.

To see more upcoming events at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, click here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Music Video for Meg Gardiner's The Liar's Lullaby

A nice little video. Meg will be signing at the store July 24 at 2pm. For those that attend there will be CD's given out which include this video, as well as several more songs.

To order a signed first edition copy email

Caleb's Crossing - A Review by Judith Starkston

The Caleb of the title of Geraldine Brook’s latest novel is the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College, a feat he accomplished in 1665. In a mind-boggling transformation he left behind life among his people, adopted the English style of clothes and cut hair, language, foods and manners, abandoned the training he was undergoing to become a spiritual and political leader of his tribe, and instead studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew amidst the earliest Colonial scholars. To be inside that mind as he “crosses” from one culture to another seems too great a leap, and indeed Brooks cleverly narrates the novel through another’s eyes—a young Colonial woman, Bethia Mayfield. In the creation of this narrative voice, Brooks has outdone herself, and given the brilliance of the narrative voices of March (which won a Pulitzer) and Year of Wonders, that is saying a great deal.
So, while the title and the blurbs suggest that Caleb is the focus of the novel—and he certainly plays a pivotal role—I find the book to be about Bethia, and that doesn’t bother me at all. Brooks has an extraordinary facility for creating language that sounds and feels like the way people spoke and thought in that distant period. I know she is a careful researcher, so perhaps she picks up the rhythms and vocabulary from the works of that period she has read, but it is certainly more than that—an innate talent for language. Too often writers sound hokey and ridiculous when they attempt to create an older sounding language and ideas, but Brooks submerged me so seamlessly and believably that when her young narrator blames herself for accidents and tragedies that we moderns (or most of us anyway) would never chalk up to punishment for our sins against God, I could not abandon poor Bethia to the foolishness of her Calvinistic beliefs. Instead I stayed within her framework, vivid and painful as that is at times and lived her life with her. I’ve taught Colonial American literature and history at various times in my career, but I found a new depth of understanding in Caleb’s Crossing.
Along with the difficulties and pain in the story, Caleb’s Crossing is full of the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard. This portrayal of setting is as masterly and loving as her development of Bethia. It is almost as though the natural beauty of Martha’s Vineyard becomes a character in the novel, and the vile stench and unhealthy damp of Cambridge a contrasting villain. Given the harm life in Cambridge does some of the characters, place as villain does not seem an exaggeration.
Some people have objected to the sweeping conclusion of Year of Wonders in which Brooks lifted her character Anna into a new place and life that seemed to solve all her problems while ignoring a range of issues. In Caleb’s Crossing there is no deus ex machina setting switch, but Brooks does wrap up Bethia’s life in quick fashion. This provides satisfaction with no loose threads at the end, but it does change the pace and rhythm of the book. I think it provided a good closing to the novel. I’ll be interested to see if other reviewers agree.
For Brook’s ability to allow us to live within a young Puritan woman’s mind and peer into the complex issues arising from the clash of Native American and Colonial world views, Caleb’s Crossing is definitely worth reading. Once again, a masterful work of historical fiction by one of America’s best contemporary writers.

The Poisoned Pen has a few signed first edition copies of Caleb's Crossing left, if you are interested email  For more reviews by Judith visit her site