Something novel

I’m a fan of Ron Franscell’s works
and I consider them ‘can’t-miss’ crime books.”
—CJ BOX, #1 NYTimes bestselling author

Covid changed all of us.

We learned to navigate our abruptly risky neighborhoods, commute by Wi-Fi, and prevent our masks from fogging our eyeglasses. Sadly, some of us also missed weddings and funerals.

Covid up-ended my writing life in an unforeseen way, too: Every door suddenly slammed in my face. Airport boarding gates, motel rooms, gas stations, libraries, courthouses, roadside diners, ordinary people’s homes … no travel, no room at the inn, no archival research, no face-to-face interviews … for two years, I could no longer do the rigorous, boots-on-the-ground research that my true stories required. 

But I still needed to write, not just for readers but for my own sanity, too.

Unable to go out into the world, I turned inward. How could I use what I’ve learned in decades of true storytelling and journalism? How can I still write a provocative book without leaving the safety of my home and imagination? The answers changed the arc of my writing.

Crime fiction.

So today, exactly 20 years since my last mystery “The Obituary”—a sequel to my 1999 novel “The Deadline”—I’m announcing my first new crime fiction after a long string of bestselling true-crime books. It’s one of Covid’s unintended consequences.

My new mystery novel is called DEAF ROW. It will be published by WildBlue Press in early 2023.

On one hand, DEAF ROW is a chilling mystery. It tells how retired Denver homicide detective Woodrow “Mountain” Bell yearns only to fade away in the quirky little Colorado mountain town of Midnight. But when a local priest coaxes him to explore a young girl’s decades-old murder, the cynical old cop’s first impulse is to let it lie … but he can’t.

Unfortunately, even if Bell’s curiosity is willing, his forensic tools are weak: He no longer has the high-tech assets of a big-city police department, such as supercomputers, DNA testing, or subpoena power. Now, his best forensic resources are a few smart-ass, end-of-the-road codgers he meets for coffee most mornings—a small-town club of colorful old farts who call themselves Deaf Row. As these gaffers dust off a surprising variety of dormant talents to help their buddy Bell, the whole mottled crew is startled to find itself on a collision course with a serial butcher.

But DEAF ROW is more than that.

This up-market mystery weaves together all the elements of a well-executed thriller—dynamic suspense, vivid characters, realistic cop work, and the clock ticking down relentlessly toward more bloodshed. But it is also a story about men pushing back against time and death, trying not to disappear entirely.

All told, DEAF ROW is a moving, occasionally humorous portrait of old folks whose best days are behind them … maybe. Here’s a telling excerpt:

“On any given morning (except Sunday) seven or eight old guys gathered at a table in Tommyknockers’ front window to fabulate, debate, and cuss about all the things that occupy old men: death, politics, colonoscopies, guns, women, cars, sex, loss, the senselessness of designer coffee, mortality, how time moves more quickly now, Viagra, missed opportunities in life, prostates, the diverse flavors of Metamucil, and fishing. Or something really deep and important, such as the relative stamina of car batteries, which might be a metaphor for what keeps old men alive when they don’t really want to talk about what keeps old men alive.”

DEAF ROW will be my 19th book, but only my fourth fiction (and will be followed by at least one sequel). My friends at WildBlue Press, one of the coolest contemporary presses around,  have previously published reprint editions of “The Deadline” and “The Obituary”, as well as my “Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Los Angeles.” Check them (and other WildBlue titles) out!

Watch this space and my social media for news as we inch closer to the as-yet-unscheduled publication date. My true-crime fans will find a lot of “Easter eggs”! And the book is already getting noticed by some names familiar to modern mystery buffs. So forget social distancing. I expect you’re gonna want this one very close on your nightstand.

“It is well established that Ron Franscell is one of the stars of true crime.
I’ve followed his career for many years, and have reached the conclusion
that he could rewrite the telephone book (to the extent that it exists any more)
and make it compelling. Ron is a wordsmith, plain and simple, and now
this foray into smart crime fiction should be warmly welcomed by his legions of fans.

—JOHN LESCROART, author of 19 NYTimes bestsellers,
including THE 13th JUROR and THE MISSING PIECE


Cover image by Monica Bourgeau