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Murder Past Murder Present
cover design © 2009. Ardy M. Scott.



An anthology of original mysteries written by award-winning authors of the American Crime Writers League.



Book Excerpt



Murder Past, Murder Present

R. Barri Flowers and Jan Grape, Editors



A list of contents.

Introduction by Jan Burke
"Murder Past, Murder Present" by R. Barri Flowers
"For the Love of the Grape" by Kris Neri
"A Jury of His Peers" by Jay Brandon
"Dead on the 4th of July" by Meg Chittenden
"American Notes" by Edward Marston
"Calamity" by Shirley Kennett
"Coffee & Conversation" by John Lutz
"Karma" by Candace Robb
"Pure Pulp" by Bill Crider
"Oñate’s Foot" by Betty Winkelman
"A Hint of Mint" by Taffy Cannon
"Loose Ends" by Ed Gorman
"He Hated Cats" by Pari Noskin Taichert
"Mr. Wonderful" by Melinda Wells
"The Final Nail" by Robert J. Randisi
"Zena Bennett & The Angel of Death" by Claire McNab
"The Exquisite Burden of Bones" by Noreen Ayres
"Talk To Me" by Twist Phelan
"Monstrosity" by Julie Wray Herman
"Murder on Ice" by Robert Scott
"The Amish Country Market Murder" by Valerie Malmont
"The Crimes of Miss Abigail Armstrong" by Jan Grape


From the Editors


Welcome to the first American Crime Writers League mystery anthology.

Founded by Robert Randisi and Ed Gorman in the late 1980s to bring together professional mystery authors in a private forum to exchange ideas, the American Crime Writers League is still going strong in the 21st century as a writing organization for serious and proven writers of mystery fiction.

Now seemed like a perfect time to put forth an anthology of original mysteries written by internationally bestselling, award-winning authors of the ACWL.

As the title reflects, the stories are all murder mysteries that take place in the past, present, or even both. Readers will find an eclectic group of intriguing Americana tales of mystery and suspense that will offer something for everyone.

Many of the contributors have already made names for themselves, with numerous mystery awards and nominations, including Robert and Ed, John Lutz, Meg Chittenden, Bill Crider, Taffy Cannon, and Jay Brandon.

Others are establishing themselves as talented mystery authors, such as Taffy Cannon, Twist Phelan, and Pari Noskin Taichert.

In all, this is an amazing group of authors and their collective imaginations in creating page-turning, truly unforgettable mystery stories will speak for themselves.

We hope you enjoy the anthology and will check out the authors’ other published works as well.

The Editors,

R. Barri Flowers & Jan Grape



For Love of the Grape

by Kris Neri


Louis Caruso always thought the worst crime of which he'd stand accused was making cheap wine, a sin of staggering proportions in the environs of California's Sonoma Valley wine region. Never did he think he'd be suspected of murder.

If only he hadn't risen during the night to work in his winery that night. Naturally, the police suspected him--nobody believed that someone whose wines carried the ridiculous names "Pizza Louie Red" and "Pizza Louie White" would care enough to work in his cellars in the middle of the night. But making a quality product mattered to Louis, even if his grapes were grown just outside the Sonoma Valley and his wines were sold in grocery stores and low-end outlets instead of fine wine shops.

Louis had loved winemaking since, as a kid, he'd helped out on his parents' winery. He loved the way the morning light filtered through the yeast that forms on the surface of the Chardonnay grapes, like lace at a window. He loved the rich vibrancy of the Cabernet and Merlot grapes. Mostly, though, he loved that wine was so pure. Sure, vintners could improve it with aging techniques, but the product itself was a miracle produced by nature.

The night of the murder, Louis went to the stone building that housed his cellars to check on the temperature of one of his cooling tanks. The dank smell of fresh manure carried on the breeze overcame the delicate scent of grapes, causing Louis's jaw to tighten. In the moonlight that lit the path he took, he noticed an SUV parked in the shadows alongside the building where it was too dark to say whether the car was navy or dark green. Had to be navy--his neighbor's car. Who else would sneak around Louis's property at that hour? His neighbor, Denny Lawson, the redneck lettuce farmer who lived up the road, kept trying to force Louis to sell his winery to him. Now he must be sinking to sabotage.

Louis quietly opened the sliding door and crept inside. Someone had left the lights on, and the sudden brightness caused him to squint. Since he'd been the last one to leave the evening before, and he'd turned the lights off, he figured the intruder must still be there. Yet it was awfully quiet; eerily so. A flicker of panic told Louis he needed a weapon, in case things got ugly. He looked to the wall where tools hung beside the blackboard noting tank temperatures. But the heavy wrench that usually hung there was missing.

He snatched a flashlight instead and crept up the dim aisle along the far wall. But he stopped a few steps along where a man lay sprawled at his feet, dead.

Louis flicked his flashlight at the face lost in the shadows cast by the big barrels. Strange, he'd never seen this man before. But that made what he saw next inexplicable. In his stiffened hand, the dead man clasped a piece of the winery's thick chalk. On the concrete floor, he had written, "Lou struck me."

Stunned, Louis fell to his knees. He could see someone had parted the man's skull with a wrench. His wrench, he realized,when he spotted the tool to the right of the corpse. He stared at the jerky lettering accusing him, especially the last letter, which curved up, as if the man's hand had twitched in the moments before death.

Louis heard something outside and hastily grabbed the wrench for protection. He took it in his left hand, even though that meant reaching across the body. He was strangely ambidextrous. He always reached with his left hand and returned with his right. His handwriting was equally bad with both hands.

When he heard the sliding door open, Louis clutched the wrench tighter. Was the killer returning? The careless strut that came to a stop behind him only belonged to Julio Martinez, a worker Louis had fired days earlier for laziness.

"What are you doing here, Julio?" Louis demanded.

"I saw the light outside and I--" Martinez stared. "Why'd you do it, Louis? Why did you kill the juice broker?"

* * *

In life, the juice broker's name had been David Halloran. Though Louis had never met him, Halloran was well known in the Sonoma wine community. A juice broker bought grape juice in bulk from some wineries, often those outside the region, and sold it to others. The practice wasn't illegal as long as wineries disclosed when they mixed in other varieties of grapes or used juice from outside of their region. But too many wineries used inferior juice on the sly, to stretch their harvests' yields. It was a dirty little secret within the Sonoma Valley.

The police took Louis in for questioning. The detective assigned to the case was a cute blonde, whose curly hair formed a pale cloud around her pretty freckled face. She reminded Louis of a teacher he'd had a crush on as a boy. Only Detective Patty Ransom wasn't as encouraging as his teacher had been.

With a frown that cut between her eyebrows, Detective Ransom said, "We take dying declarations seriously."

She meant what the dead guy had written on the floor. If only Louis had erased it before Julio walked in. But why would the dying man have written that? Louis truly had never seen him before.

"What reason would I have to kill Halloran? I didn't know him," Louis insisted.

Sergeant Wickenberg, Detective Ransom's boss, showed Louis a note they removed from the body. A small, precise hand had written: "Pizza Louie Winery, 1:30 am," followed by several dollar signs.

"That tells the story, Caruso. From what I hear, Halloran called on wineries in the middle of the night for only one reason--to sell juice the vintners didn't want anyone to know they were buying."

"Not me," Louis swore. "Look, I make decent wines for ordinary meals. Nobody would care if I bought juice, but I never have. If you knew anything about wine--"

"Can't prove it by me," the sergeant said. "I'm a beer drinker." He patted a big round belly that proved his claim.

Great. Louis had to run into the one person in Northern California who didn't regard himself as a wine expert. What if he ended up with a jury full of beer drinkers or teetotalers? But he was right. Louis really would have suffered no shame in buying juice. Only the fine wine producers needed to hide it.

The one thing Louis didn't like about wine was the snobbishness that accompanied it, the unspoken collusion among the posh wineries, the wine merchants, and the awards judges. They couldn't look past the elegant trappings of the overpriced vineyards. They didn't have the guts to say when a wine wasn't as good as it should be, or when wines like Louis's were better than expected. Nobody in wine would admit when the emperor was naked.

"Then again, you might have killed him for something that had nothing to do with wine. I've heard that Halloran would have done anything for a buck." The sergeant smiled menacingly. "Hey, is it true the Environmental Protection Agency once fined you for spraying your grapes with a banned pesticide?"

While he couldn't follow the logic of that conversation, anger mushroomed in Louis. A banned pesticide had been sprayed in his fields, and someone anonymously called the EPA to report it. But Louis hadn't done it. He wouldn't risk his reputation or his vines. His nasty neighbor, Denny Lawson, had to have been the one who sprayed--the poison was one approved for lettuce. Lawson would do anything to force Louis to sell. He thought the wine growers should stick to Sonoma and clear out of his neighborhood.

"Seems to me," Sergeant Wickenberg said before leaving the interrogation room, "you had lots of reasons for killing Halloran."

Once the sergeant left, Detective Ransom seemed to look at him more kindly. Or maybe Louis just wanted to believe that. He never had much success with women. He was too shy and his timing was awful. As evidence of that, he seized the moment alone with Detective Ransom to awkwardly ask if, when the case was over, she might consider going out with him.

Was that a flash of interest he saw in her blue eyes, or indignation? "Mr. Caruso, this case isn't going to end the way you'd like."

Louis gulped. The law, it seemed, was as blind to the truth as the wine world could be.





Author Bio

R. Barri Flowers

R. Barri Flowers is an award winning, best-selling literary criminologist with more than forty published books and dozens of short stories to his credit. His published mystery novels include the legal thrillers, State's Evidence (Dorchester, 2006), Justice Served (Dorchester, 2005), and Persuasive Evidence (Dorchester, 2004). Justice Served was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award.

Flower's best-selling true crime book, The Sex Slave Murders (St. Martin's Press, 1996) was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine and was the basis for crime documentaries on the Biography Channel's Crime Stories and Investigation Discovery's Wicked Attraction series.

The author's noir tale, "The Wrong End of a Gun," appears in Seattle Noir (Akashic Books, 2009), as part of an award winning noir anthology series. A number of Flowers mystery short stories are part of the Amazon Shorts program, including "Ripper-Part 1," "Deception-Part-1," "Gone But Not Forgotten," "No Going Back," and "The Jury Has Spoken."

Apart from writing fiction and true crime, R. Barri Flowers is a distinguished criminologist and has written such criminology titles as College Crime (McFarland, 2009), Female Crime, Criminals and Cellmates (McFarland, 2009), The Adolescent Criminal (McFarland, 2009), Sex Crimes: Predators, Perpetrators, Prostitutes, and Victims (Charles C Thomas, 2006), and Murders in the United States (McFarland, 2004).

The author is a recipient of the Wall of Fame Award from Michigan State University's renowned School of Criminal Justice. He has been interviewed on the Biography Channel, Investigation Discovery, and by ABC News as well as many popular online sites.

R. Barri Flowers is the editor of Murder Past, Murder Present, a mystery anthology by award-winning, best-selling mystery author members of the American Crime Writers League. The anthology will be published in the summer of 2009 (Twilight Times Books).

The author is currently working on a thriller novel, Death Cries, procedural mystery series, A Killer in Paradise, and a narrative nonfiction essay anthology for the International Thriller Writers, True Thrills.

TTB titles: Murder Here, Murder There
Murder Past, Murder Present

Author web site.

Jan Grape

Jan Grape is an award winning writer with a mystery series and more than two dozen short stories to her credit. Her novels include Dark Blue Death (Five Star, 2005) and the Anthony nominated Austin City Blue (Worldwide Library, 2003). Both feature Austin police detective Zoe Barrow.

The author is a double award winner with an Anthony for Best Short Story, "A Front Row Seat," and Macavity for a co-authored nonfiction book, Deadly Women (Carroll & Graf, 1997). She has also been nominated for an Edgar, Shamus, and Agatha.

Grape's mystery stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, including "Cat O'Nine Lives," in Cat Crimes through Time (Book Sales, 2001) and "A Front Row Seat," in Vengeance is Hers (Signet, 1997).

Jan Grape is currently the President of the American Crime Writers League and former Vice President of the Private Eye Writers of America and the Southwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. She is a regular columnist for Mystery Scene magazine.

She recently completed a mystery novel titled, What Doesn't Kill You (Five Star, 2010).

Jan is the co-editor of Murder Past, Murder Present, a mystery anthology by award-winning, best-selling mystery author members of the American Crime Writers League. The anthology will be published in the summer of 2009 (Twilight Times Books).

TTB titles: Murder Here, Murder There
Murder Past, Murder Present

Author web site.




Murder Past, Murder Present Copyright © 2009.R. Barri Flowers and Jan Grape. All rights reserved by the authors. Please do not copy without permission.


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