What if serial killers had agents?

A doctor wants to euthanize his terminal patients. A disgraced journalist wants a better job than flogging tours of crime scenes. The tour business is dying. There aren’t enough murders in this sleepy town to draw a crowd.

A good serial killer would help.

Mr MayhemSo begins Mr. Mayhem, the new crime thriller that fittingly goes on sale on Black Friday.

For a man known only as Brinker, the trouble starts when he’s fired for reporting his publisher’s DUI. Reduced to doing PR for a funeral home and its trolley tour of murder sites, Brinker despairs of ever restoring his pride, or his bank account. Compared to journalism, PR is degradation, an excuse to lie for a living. His addiction to prescription medication only fuels that rage.

When his doctor asks for a hand in dispatching hopeless patients, Brinker hires a wildly successful assassin named Angel, who brings chaos and fame to this backwoods town. But as Angel’s demands soar with the body count, Brinker wonders whether he’ll become the latest addition to his own list.

With Mr. Mayhem, I’ve tried to turn the suspense genre on its head. Fans of Elmore Leonard and Gillian Flynn will enjoy the double- and triple-crosses that give the book its dark edge. And readers who like a little sugar with their spice may come to think of Brinker as the king of the comic sex scene.

Mr. Mayhem is set in the snowy mountains of Pennsylvania, from whence I come. Published by Allusion Books, the novel is available in print and ebook formats through Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo,  my website and bookstores that place orders through Ingram. The audiobook version is due by the end of December.

What a way to end the year.

With ‘Five Stories,’ less is more

In “Dudley’s Sacrifice,” Eric Sheridan Wyatt tackles the absurdities of corporate life like Jane Goodall attacking fleas in a short piece by T.C. Boyle. One of five short stories in Wyatt’s first collection of published fiction, Five Stories, “Dudley’s Sacrifice” opens with a regional manager contemplating layoffs at a company whose owner has scraped the marrow from the bone.

Five Stories coverOne by one the narrator weeds a list of potential layoffs until the owner takes the decision out of his hands. Wyatt follows cost-cutting and downsizing to its logically absurd conclusion with an irony that characterizes much of his work here.

More rewards follow, from the snarky narrative voice of “Cop-Cop Cop,” a loopy love story set on a planet that has outlawed coffee, to the tender, wistful “Solomon’s Ditch,” a standout about a tobacco farmer, a runaway girl and a dog.

Wyatt excels at capturing character, setting and mood in a small space, using language that enhances without distraction, as in the final story, where a child discovers a dead robin with eyes that are “dimpled like tiny raisins.”

In Five Stories, Wyatt writes with a quick wit and a wry voice. It’s one that deserves a wider audience . . . and a bigger collection.