March 14, 7 PM ET

Rural crime fiction authors S.A. Cosby, Chris Harding Thornton, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, and Heather Young  visited the Back Room in a special presentation in partnership with the Virginia Festival of the Book.

A program of Virginia Humanities, the Virginia Festival of the Book brings together writers and readers to promote and celebrate books, reading, literacy, and literary culture every March. This year’s festival takes place virtually from March 13-26. Check the website for the full schedule.

Special thanks to the Wisconsin Book Festival for supporting this event.


The Authors

 

Shawn A. Cosby is an Anthony Award-winning writer from Southeastern Virginia. He is the bestselling author of Blacktop Wasteland, Amazon’s #1 Mystery and Thriller of the Year and #3 Best Book of 2020 overall, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and a Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist. He is also the author of the upcoming Razorblade Tears.

His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and his story “Slant-Six” was selected as a Distinguished Story in Best American Mystery Stories for 2016. His short story “The Grass Beneath My Feet” won the Anthony Award for Best Short Story in 2019. His writing has been called “gritty and heartbreaking” and “dark, thrilling and tragic”. His style and tone are influenced by his varied life experiences which include but are not limited to being a bouncer, construction worker, retail manager and for six hours a mascot for a major fast food chain in the world’s hottest costume.


Chris Harding Thornton, a seventh-generation Nebraskan, holds an MFA from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, where she has taught literature and writing courses.

Her other professions have included quality assurance overseer at a condom factory, jar-lid screwer at a plastics plant, closer at Burger King, record store clerk, all-ages club manager, and PR writer. Pickard County Atlas is her first novel.

Visit her website at chrishardingthornton.com.


David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, is author of the novel Winter Counts (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2020). Winter Counts has been selected as an Amazon Best Book of August, Best of the Month by Apple Books, a September main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and is an Indie Next Great Reads pick for September.

The novel received rave reviews from New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Washington Post, Shelf Awareness, Booklist, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Denver Post, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, BookPage, Air Mail, Fredricksburg Free-Lance Star, and Los Angeles Times. It was mentioned as one of 2020’s most anticipated books by Library Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, USA Today, Washington Post, Time, Salon, CrimeReads, Mystery Tribune, BuzzFeed, The Rumpus, Electric Lit, Betches, Shondaland, Dandelion Chandelier, Popsugar, Debutiful, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Observer, Lit Hub, AARP Magazine, The Millions, The Writer, and Book Riot.

Learn more at davidweiden.com.


Heather Young is the author of two novels. Her debut, The Lost Girls, won the Strand Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award. The Distant Dead was published on June 9, 2020, and was named one of the Best Books of Summer by People Magazine, Parade, and CrimeReads. A former antitrust and intellectual property litigator, she traded the legal world for the literary one and earned her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2011.

She lives in Mill Valley, California, where she writes, bikes, hikes, and reads books by other people that she wishes she’d written. Visit her at heatheryoungwriter.com.


Your Hosts

 

Karen Dionne is the USA Today and #1 internationally bestselling author of the award-winning psychological suspense novel The Marsh King’s Daughter, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the US and in 26 other countries. Her follow up novel, The Wicked Sister (August 2020, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), is also an international bestseller and was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of their Best Books of 2020.

Both The Wicked Sister and The Marsh King’s Daughter were selected by the Library of Michigan as Michigan Notable Books, and The Marsh King’s Daughter took home the Barry and the Crimson Scribe Awards for Best Novel. The Marsh King’s Daughter was also chosen as one of the best books of 2017 by iBooks, Hudson Booksellers, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Irish Independent, The Florida Sun-Sentinel, Library Journal, Shelf Awareness and many other booksellers and reviewers, and is in development as a major motion picture. Visit Karen at www.karen-dionne.com

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels of suspense.  She has won five Agathas, four Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her 2019 book The Murder List won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the year. Her 2020 book is The First to Lie, of which the Publishers Weekly starred review said, “Stellar. Ryan could win a sixth Agatha with this one.” It is now a nominee for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Hank is also an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s WHDH-TV. In addition to 37 EMMYs and 14 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and served as past president of national Sisters in Crime. Her upcoming novel, Her Perfect Life, will be published September 14, 2021. Learn more at www.HankPhillippiRyan.com.

 

Authors’ Books

 

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he’d left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets. When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can’t-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver’s seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland…or die trying.

Purchase Blacktop Wasteland from an independent bookstore near you.

Purchase Blacktop Wasteland online at www.bookshop.org.


Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton

In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. It’s July 1978, and the heat is making people ornery, restless. That and the Reddick family patriarch has decided, decades after authorities ended the search for his murdered boy’s body, to lay a headstone. Instead of bringing closure, this decision is the spark that threatens to set Pickard County ablaze.

On a fateful night after the memorial service, Harley tails the youngest Reddick and town miscreant, Paul, through the abandoned farms and homes outside their run-down town. The pursuit puts Harley in the path of Pam Reddick, a restless young woman looking for escape, bent on cutting the ties of motherhood and marriage. Filled with desperate frustration, Pam is drawn to Harley’s dark history, not unlike that of her husband, Rick—a man raised in the wreckage of a brother’s violent death and a mother’s hardened fury.

Purchase Pickard County Atlas from an independent bookstore near you.

Purchase Pickard County Atlas online at www.bookshop.org.


Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.

Purchase Winter Counts at an independent bookstore near you.

Purchase Winter Counts online at www.bookshop.org.


The Distant Dead by Heather Young

Adam Merkel left a university professorship in Reno to teach middle school in Lovelock seven months before he died. A quiet, seemingly unremarkable man, he connected with just one of his students: Sal Prentiss, a lonely sixth grader who lives with his uncles on a desolate ranch in the hills. The two outcasts developed a tender, trusting friendship that brought each of them hope in the wake of tragedy. But it is Sal who finds Adam’s body, charred almost beyond recognition, half a mile from his uncles’ compound.

Nora Wheaton, the middle school’s social studies teacher, dreamed of a life far from Lovelock only to be dragged back on the eve of her college graduation to care for her disabled father, a man she loves but can’t forgive. She sensed in the new math teacher a kindred spirit–another soul bound to Lovelock by guilt and duty. After Adam’s death, she delves into his past for clues to who killed him and finds a dark history she understands all too well. But the truth about his murder may lie closer to home. For Sal Prentiss’s grief seems heavily shaded with fear, and Nora suspects he knows more than he’s telling about how his favorite teacher died. As she tries to earn the wary boy’s trust, she finds he holds not only the key to Adam’s murder, but an unexpected chance at the life she thought she’d lost.

Purchase The Distant Dead at an independent bookstore near you.

Purchase The Distant Dead online at www.bookshop.org.


The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne

From the bestselling and award-winning author of The Marsh King’s Daughter comes a startling novel of psychological suspense as two generations of sisters try to unravel their tangled relationships between nature and nurture, guilt and betrayal, love and evil.

You have been cut off from society for fifteen years, shut away in a mental hospital in self-imposed exile as punishment for the terrible thing you did when you were a child.

But what if nothing about your past is as it seems? And if you didn’t accidentally shoot and kill your mother, then whoever did is still out there. Waiting for you.

Purchase The Wicked Sister at an independent bookstore near you.

Purchase The Wicked Sister online at www.bookshop.org.


The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan

We all have our reasons for being who we are―but what if being someone else could get you what you want?

After a devastating betrayal, a young woman sets off on an obsessive path to justice, no matter what dark family secrets are revealed. What she doesn’t know―she isn’t the only one plotting revenge. An affluent daughter of privilege. A glamorous manipulative wannabe. A determined reporter, in too deep. A grieving widow who has to choose her new reality.

Who will be the first to lie? And when the stakes are life and death, do a few lies really matter?

Purchase The First to Lie at an independent bookstore near you.

Purchase The First to Lie online at www.bookshop.org.


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