Tag Archive for: True Crime

The Truth About True Crime: Why I’ll Never Write One Again by Lynn Chandler Willis

My first book was a non-fiction account of a headline grabbing murder that happened in my own small town. As the owner, publisher, editor, ad sales (and design) and distribution manager of a small town newspaper, I covered the murder extensively, and often exclusively, in the paper.  Although the paper started small, we had a 13-year run and closed with a circulation of 10 thousand plus. Not too bad for an ad-supported bi-weekly newspaper. 

This murder was the only one I ever covered in the paper. The victim was a much-loved 28-year-old woman born and raised in the community. A devout Christian, she was very active in her church. In the thousands of hours of interviewing friends, family, witnesses, and co-workers not a single person said one negative things about Patricia Kimble. She was an all around good person whose family roots ran deep in the community. Her killer was––in keeping with true crime nature––her husband, but with a twist. Her husband hired his younger brother to kill her with the promise of a share of the $100,000 dollar life insurance policy the husband had just recently taken out on his wife. Ladies––if you’re reading this––a payout increase in a policy, a new policy when you’re already insured, these things are red flags. 

The brothers were also part of the community. Although their family roots didn’t run deep like Patricia’s, the boys grew up in town and their father was the minister at one of the local churches. We are talking about the bible belt so at any given crossroads, there was a Baptist church on one corner and a Methodist one on the other. So yes, the brothers, Ted and Ronnie Kimble, were preacher’s sons. 

Ronnie (the younger brother) followed through with the murder. He shot his brother’s wife in the head then set her body on fire. 

I sat through every single day of Ronnie’s six-week trial, furiously scribbling notes and interviewing friends and family of Patricia’s. The Kimbles were reluctant to talk. I watched home movies of Patricia’s childhood while sitting in her father’s living room. I devoured each page of her diary her mother entrusted others with. 

The book, Unholy Covenant, was published in the year 2000. My local Barnes & Noble hosted a book
release. Three television stations and an estimate of over 200 people showed up. It was standing room only. Many of the faces I recognized. Many I didn’t and that was unnerving. By this time, the Kimble brothers had their own “following” of loyal fans proclaiming the brothers’ innocence. The entire time I was at the podium taking questions about the book, I was waiting for a Kimble follower to throw out a question, or worse.

The book sold well and continues to this day with close to 60-thousand copies sold.  People started contacting me and asking if I’d write about their own experience with a murder that hit their own family. An uncle was murdered and the cops never investigated, they’d say. What they didn’t say was the uncle was a known drug dealer and although the cops did investigate, they had no evidence. Sorry about your uncle but his death isn’t dramatic enough. Or the woman whose son was shot down and killed in his own driveway by his estranged wife. Sorry, but your son’s type of murder happens every day. Nothing really headline grabbing there. Can you imagine telling a grieving mother her child’s murder isn’t compelling enough to fill 300 pages? I’m sorry for your loss but it’s just not that interesting. 

The first producer contacted me shortly after the book was released. He envisioned a feature-length movie. And Patricia wouldn’t be a boring leasing manager like she was, she’d be an elementary school teacher because who doesn’t love an elementary school teacher? And the lead investigator would need to be a rookie, not a veteran detective. I didn’t accept his offer and nothing ever came of it. 

After that, every few years a new round of producers would call. Lifetime TV, 48 Hours, Discovery Channel, and so on and so on. Would I mind contacting Patricia’s mother and her brother, they’d ask. It’d be great to have them on camera, again! 

Patricia’s mother and her brother agreed to the first few requests. After all, the producers would tell them, it’s keeping Patricia’s memory alive. I began to wonder how Patricia was ever going to rest in peace if we kept revisiting the horrible crime every few years? How was her sweet, soft-spoken mother supposed to move on when the new batch of true crime docu-dramas and podcasts made the rounds? 

It was maybe ten years ago, maybe more, that I sat with Patricia’s mother in her tiny, single-wide trailer, both of us sweating from the heat of the lights, and watched her quietly cry. Her daughter had been dead for several years by this time and the murderers were in prison for life, but here we sat forcing her to relive every second of the worst day of her life. Cut, the director would say, this time I want you to look directly at me and say it with a little more anger in your voice. Can you do that? You’re doing great by the way.  

More tears. 

The next time a producer reached out I told them upfront I wouldn’t contact Patricia’s mother for them. And I added that I doubted she’d want to participate. I was right and the project was scraped. A year or so ago, another producer contacted me and I actually recognized his name and some of the shows he’d been involved with. His IMDB credentials were impressive. It took me two weeks and a second email from him before I replied. The show was going to be based on my book, Unholy Covenant, and they were going to use passages from it, mainly the diary entries. I reluctantly agreed to participate because I liked the storyboard and how it would be presented. I told the producer to contact Patricia’s mother and tell her what was planned, and if she ok’d it, we could move forward. He came back a few days later and said Patricia’s mother told him she didn’t want to participate in this one but she wished us the best, and gave her blessing to the project. And I was ok with that.

I did the show with a clear conscience. It’s on the Oxygen Network and called Killer Siblings. A ridiculous title but aren’t they all? Killer this or killer that. Murder here, murder there. I’m so sorry for your loss but can you cry a little more for the camera? I get that your son was murdered but publishers and producers are looking for the stories that make the headlines. I get that he was well liked, a real good guy. But did he feed the homeless? Did he volunteer for Meals-on-Wheels? Did he transport rescue dogs up and down the east coast? No? Oh, I see. He was your average guy.

He was just a victim. 

Here’s the link to the Oxygen Network’s show Killer Siblings: The Kimbles. It’s from Season 3, episode 2.




Author Lois Winston Interviews Author T.K. Thorne

By Lois Winston

Today I sit down for a chat with author T.K. Thorne. Learn more about T.K. and her books at her website.

LW: I recently read your historical novel, Noah’s Wife, and found it fascinating. Most authors start out in other careers, and those who have been in law enforcement, like you, often gravitate toward writing mysteries, suspense, or thrillers. What drew you to write the untold story of a character from the Bible? 

TKT: Hi Lois!  I’m so happy you picked Noah’s Wife because it is my first born and special to me. When I finished writing, the characters felt so real, I truly missed them being in my head saying unexpected things. It’s a joyful and magical thing to know when readers open the book because they all come alive again! 


I have never been drawn to the mystery/crime genre, perhaps because it felt too much like everyday work for me! My early reading love was science fiction and then epic fantasy. I wrote four books in those genres, but my dream of an agent and traditional publishing didn’t happen for those books. So, I went looking for a topic that would enthrall me and hopefully snag an agent. 

One day, I was at a poetry reading and a friend remarked that her pastor had dropped the fact that Noah’s wife was unnamed and had gotten only one line in the Bible in one of his sermons. I immediately envisioned the vast, white emptiness that was the life of a woman who played such an important role in the history/mythology of the three of the world’s major religions. Captivated by the idea that I could be the person to fill in that tabula rasa, I began researching what her world might have been like. Learning a historic flood had actually occurred around the year 5500 BCE that gave me a time frame for archeological research. (Did you know scientists can now determine what a person was eating thousands of years ago?) Then the character of Na’amah began to assert herself in my mind, where she lived for the four years it took to write the story.


LW: You’ve also written a novel about Lot’s wife, but your current book, House of Rose, is the first in a planned trilogy that incorporates murder, mayhem, and magic. Do you see yourself ever going back to writing more historical novels?


TKT: I wrote House of Rose as a gift to myself, something fun that didn’t require the research I had been doing for the historical novels and my nonfiction. I sat down at the computer with three little words buzzing around in my head (“You’re a hero.”) Those little words became three books about Rose Brighton, a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama who discovers she’s a witch. So much fun!


LW: I see you’ve also written a nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice, about the 1963 church bombing in Atlanta. Do you have plans to continue crime-related nonfiction as well?


TKT: Actually, I now have two nonfiction books—Last Chance for Justice and just recently, Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days. I had to get over my retreat from research for that one! It was an ongoing project for eight years while the Rose books were also being hatched. Both of those books were unplanned. I never intended to write nonfiction, much less about the civil rights era. Living and working in a historical civil rights city like Birmingham, Alabama gave rise to the circumstances that led me to write them. I’m proud that I did and hope they have contributed to our understanding of history and ourselves. 


As to what plans I have, they are ping-pong balls right now. I’ve started rewriting one of those early epic fantasy novels I loved in younger days, playing with the idea of another biblical era historical fiction, and a (non-magical) crime/mystery. But to be honest, the pandemic has sucked my writing energy, and I haven’t filled my well back up yet, or perhaps the right story hasn’t emerged. Until that happens, I’m staying busy with garden projects, painting, and taking care of my rescue horses. I’ve been writing for a long time and who knows. We shall see what arises!


LW: The bio on your website states that as an eight-year-old, you won a ribbon for being stubborn. I think stubbornness is a trait that serves many authors well. So many of us need that stubbornness to persevere through years of rejections before we sell our first book. Tell us more about that award. How did you feel at the time when you received it?


TKT: It was a very hot summer day in Montgomery, Alabama. I was riding in a horse show at Little Lake Farms in Montgomery, Alabama on a bay named Duchess. I was so small, they had to tie my stirrups to get them short enough. The jumps were all barely off the ground. I could have jumped over them myself, but Duchess was not in the mood. The rule was after three refusals, you are disqualified, and we already had about ten or more (I lost count) at one jump, so there was no point in continuing. But I just wouldn’t give up. I kept circling back and aiming her, my little legs flailing against the saddle leather and finally, Duchess gave up, hopped over the crossed beams of the jump and finished the course. The crowd gave me a standing ovation, and the judge gave me an unexpected third place ribbon. 


At the time, I was shocked, knowing I should have been disqualified and felt guilty about it. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood the judge had bent the rules because he admired my spirit and determination. I have had other awards over the course of several years, but none of them, even the ones for my books, meant as much to me as that faded yellow ribbon I still have, because you are absolutely right. Determination and not quitting makes all the difference. I wrote six books before my first one was published and received countless rejections. It’s taken me almost fifty years of stubbornness to get here.


LW: You mention that you have a black belt in Aikido and Jujitsu and dove the Great Blue Hole in Belize. You sound like a woman who loves adventure. What are some of the other off-the-beaten path places you’ve explored and adventures you’ve had?


TKT: Well, you are right again! I love adventure and new vistas. I think that is part of what I enjoyed about police work—not knowing what was going to happen next. And a martial arts is an “art” and hence, a process of constant discovery. Travel, of course, also presents those kinds of opportunities. Visits to Israel and Turkey were part of research for Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate (Lot’s wife). Martial arts took me to Japan years ago. In addition to Belize, I’ve been with friends and hubby to New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Croatia, southern England, Thailand, and Cambodia. Machu Picchu and Galapagos in South America were on the menu before the pandemic, but that will have to wait. Right now, I am trying to find adventure in my backyard battling renegade wisteria and getting to know the two rescue horses I recently acquired.


LW: Finally, is there something I haven’t asked that you’re dying to tell our readers, either about yourself or your books…or both?


TKT: Lois, having just read Assault with a Glue Gun, when you say the word “dying,” I just sit up and take note of what’s in your hands!”  😂


Thanks for the questions. It’s been fun!

LW: As it was for me.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.


Website: www.loiswinston.com

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Crimes of Passion

by Sparkle Abbey

We have a confession. February, the month of love, bring us thoughts of hearts, flowers, and. . . murder.

Over the past few years, with the growing popularity of true crime podcasts, American’s are gobbling up true crime stories like discounted Valentine’s Day chocolates at Walgreens. Who’s not listening to the wildly popular podcast My Favorite Murder? There’s even a Netflix show called, Murderous Affairs — “True crime stories of lovers and spouses driven to kill.”

Obviously, love and murder go well together. Why? Maybe because both involve passion, an emotion so strong it can push someone over the edge. Thriller writer, John Lescroart

once said there are 14 motives for murder, but he summarized them as love, lust, lucre, and loathing.

As a motive for a crime of passion, love and murder are clearly a great match. However, in addition, love also often becomes a part of the storyline for the characters solving the mystery. It’s no accident that popular crime shows often feature a love interest. Love is a common human experience. Almost everyone can relate to it. Love motivates our decision making. In fiction those decisions are mostly bad, which only amp up the tension, keeping us on the edge of our seats.

A lingering glance over a dead body, repressed romantic feelings during a serial killer investigation, a confession of love when two people are convinced they are about to die, only to be denied when both people survive—reasons that keep us watching our favorite shows, episode after episode.

So what do you think? Do you like a serving of love with your mystery? Or would you rather keep the hearts and flowers far away from your crime fiction?

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series set in Laguna Beach. Their series features former Texas beauty queen cousins, Caro, a pet therapist and, Melinda, a pet boutique owner. The most recent installments (book nine) BARKING WITH THE STARS and  (book ten) THE DOGFATHER continue Caro and Mel’s murder-solving adventures.

Confession of a True Crime Writer

Phyllis Gobbell, co-author of An Unfinished Canvas (Berkley, 2007), is Assistant Professor of English at Nashville State Community College. She received the Tennessee Arts Commission Individual Artist Literary Award in 2006, and her portfolio is featured on Southern Artistry: www.southernartistry.org/Phyllis_Gobbell. Her new website will be up and running in a few weeks at http://www.phyllisgobbell.com/

I didn’t set out to write true crime. It seems I’ve written everything but true crime, as I examine my manuscripts on file:

· A multi-generational saga that fills a banker’s box. The word count is probably 500,000, but I’d have to count the words manually. I wrote it using an old Word Perfect program, on 5-inch floppies from the era of Magnum, P.I., so the chances of resurrecting my epic novel are next to zero.

· A “literary” novel, revised five times in fifteen years, pitched by four agents. It came so, so close, but . . . . Can you believe I’m writing a sequel?

· Another “literary” novel that is not as good – but I’m not ready to shred it.

· A collection of short stories, to which I add periodically. Actually, several of these have been published.

· A mystery. A woman traveling in Provence, an architect (I was married to one); a lovely little village; art theft, car chases through narrow, twisting streets; murder, romance – you get the drift. I thought my heroine would travel the world over, solving mysteries. I almost had a publisher for this one, too – but the small press folded.

· A collection of creative nonfiction pieces. The death of my mother, brother, and sister in a short period of time triggered these intensely personal writings, and in some ways, creative nonfiction has been the most successful for me. But I can do only so much of this.

· A collection of poetry written during the time my brother was dying. Some of the poems have been published individually, but I doubt this collection will ever go anywhere beyond the chapbooks I made for family members, and that’s OK.

· A children’s book about seatbelt safety, published when I had small children. (Those children now have babies of their own.)

· Two books from the same time period, published by a religious publisher.

Do you think I have a problem with focus?

Back to true crime and how An Unfinished Canvas came to be written.

Two high-profile cold cases in Nashville were finally solved. The first involved the mysterious 1996 disappearance of Janet March, young mother and artist, married to a prominent lawyer, Perry March. Everyone believed Perry killed her, but there was no body, no sign of murder. Perry moved to Mexico and started a new life. Nine years after Janet’s disappearance, Perry was deported from Mexico and indicted for murder. After he went to jail, the plot took more twists and turns than a fiction writer could ever make up.

Another writer and I decided to put out feelers because we knew somebody would write about this fascinating case. We sent queries to three agents who immediately asked for more, so we wrote a book proposal. As we waited for responses, 48 Hours did an episode on the March case. Next day, we received a call. The agent had seen the show. I can imagine her digging our proposal from the bottom of a stack taller than I am. Timing isn’t everything, but it’s a lot. CNN and Court TV televised the trial, and we had a book deal shortly. My co-writer and I wrote our first true crime.

And about that second high-profile cold case – I’m working on it.

I might say the story chooses what it wants to be. There’s some truth there. But it’s probably more truthful to say I’m still trying to decide what kind of writer I want to be when I grow up.

Phyllis Gobbell