Tag Archives: screenwriters

Book Review: Crime Mystery The Appeal by Janice Hallett @atriabooks @atriamysterybus

I’ve read several books this month (see my note at end of post) so I’m off to a good start meeting new goals. I decided to begin book reviews this year with The Appeal by Janice Hallett, a crime mystery drama, because it was released in hardcover yesterday in the US from Atria books! 

 BOOK REVIEW –

The Appeal
by Janice Hallett

UK pub 01/14/21 and 07/01/21 Viper
US pub 01/25/22 Atria (hardcover)

Summary, Per UK Publisher –
(because I like this one better!)

IN A TOWN FULL OF SECRETS
SOMEONE WAS MURDERED.
SOMEONE WENT TO PRISON.
AND EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?


Dear Reader,

Enclosed are documents relating to the events surrounding the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons, and the tragic death of one of its members. Another member is currently in prison for the crime. We have reason to suspect that they are innocent, and that there were far darker secrets that have yet to be revealed.

We believe that the killer has given themselves away. It’s there in writing, hidden in the emails, texts, and letters. In the events surrounding the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick, and the question of whether that money was truly being used to fund her life-saving cancer treatment. Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth? Do you dare?

The standout debut thriller of 2021 that delivers multiple brilliant twists and will change the way you think about the modern crime novel. 

REVIEW –


I didn’t know how I’d feel about reading this book when I first started it, given it’s an epistolary novel. I wondered if it would be hard to follow or get lost in as much as I like with regular mysteries and thrillers, but soon enough I was immersed in the story being told through e-mail and other correspondence. It was as if I was a voyeur looking in, or perhaps, an additional solicitor sorting through the evidence along with those on this case (which the novel is framed around). In that regard, it became a fun game, hinging on my already investigative nature, and I was certainly caught up early in what I knew must be a mystery unraveling among a very interesting cast of characters.

We get to know those who feature with the most email correspondence the best – Issy, Sarah, Martin, James. The rest we are only given a view of based off other characters’ feelings (which is biased, of course, when you think about it) – but I did have my own feelings on quite a few of them! I don’t think it would be a read for you if you really love the feeling of being connected to characters. You have to be alright with unreliable characters, which I am, so it worked fine for me.

I mostly became invested instead in wanting to know what was going on with the charity appeal, who was going to be murdered, etc. – I enjoyed “watching” the characters interact within their various social circle hierarchy and trying to understand who might be possibly shady and why. I like suspenseful drama and this book certainly brought that – it’s fitting these characters were part of a community theater. It was hard to tell who was putting on the performances of their lives off the stage and into their emails, too – and as it unraveled, I found myself shaking my head at some of these characters! It also had me as a reader putting clues together and seeing which theory I aligned with, which made it a fun sort of mystery puzzle, which I adore. Hey, I became a lawyer, or detective, for a few days!

As far as any critical notes, about seventy percent into the book the author started a lot of info dumping, under the guise of the solicitors writing their various theories into a report. I wanted to skip much of it since I felt I had already gathered or understood a lot of it myself from the correspondence. I suppose I can understand why it was included, to wrap it up for us, but yet for me I could move past it. I think, in another format, it would have been better set-up as courtroom or dialogue scenario with the characters. Instead, it read like a long report, a legal report, which is how information was passed to the reader due to the epistolary format. That’s why this book would be a great tv show or film. As that it would light up. As the last half of the book went on, it also read as if it was written as a screenplay or stage play and could easily be converted. I’d watch any of the above!

I enjoyed the humor that came in text messages and such from the solicitors and their boss at times. The post-it notes as art on some of the pages was a good touch. The way we really could gather some personalities very well over emails showed excellent character development. There were some red herrings, strategically placed clues, and a twist or reveal that was shocking to an extent (though I had my suspicions!).

If you’re looking for a novel that is a simple mystery crime thriller you want to relax your brain with, this might not be it. Your brain needs to keep track of information in this one, which made it fantastic as far as I’m concerned. If you’re tired, rushed, or stressed, you might not be ready for this, so know yourself and be prepared in that regard.

Overall, a unique, enjoyable read that kept me guessing and thinking, had wit and humor in all the right places, was a study in the social hierarchy construct and its pitfalls, and would make an amazing tv show! It was certainly good enough to garner four stars because it kept me turning pages and wanting to get back to my reading time so I could continue in the drama and unraveling of the mystery. I was guessing some parts right up until the end!

I’ll definitely want to read more from Hallett in the future and look forward to it. I know her next book is available now for UK readers (so those who are my UK subscribers here, go get both!). I look forward to it also arriving in the US.

I thank Atria Books for the advanced copy for book news or review consideration.

Purchase, Read, Borrow –

GoodReads

Barnes & Noble

Amazon US

Amazon UK Paperback

I could not find this book on bookshop.org, though I recommend using it for books to support independent shops, as well as looking at your local indie bookstore (or asking them to order). Ask your local library, too!

Janice Hallett, Biography

Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office, and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and cowrote the feature film Retreat. The Appeal is her first novel. 

Noteworthy Stuff –

For those who love covers like me. UK alternate covers – I LOVE!

Paperback UK
Hardcover UK

______________________________

Note to my readers: For 2022, I am trying to be more disciplined and cut social media use and other time wasters and instead increase my reading and my own writing again. I’m wholly behind on reviews of the past, especially these last few years, but as a mom who is very hands-on with my kids, a hardworking editor and public relations professional, being an author/writer myself, a cat mom, and maintaining my physical and mental health, I’m pulled in many directions. All I can offer now are my goals that include better reading organization and to not over-think reviews (which ones I do, when, and how). I’ll read what speaks to my mind and I’ll review and write and highlight what I can. I’ve made good progress on this so far, and positive attitudes around me will help that continue.

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Interview: Producer, Actress, Screenwriter Comika Hartford #HookonWiHM #WIHMX #POC #Horror

Today, I welcome Comika Hartford to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Comika is a writer, actor, producer, and phenomenal lady and I am so happy to have been able to interview her as part of my women in horror series for February, which fittingly is also Black History Month. This award-winning woman is certainly making history for women in her field! I usually stick to books here, but we all like film as well, so I felt it would interest readers. Professionally her work in the genres of horror and psychological thrillers interest me and we’ll talk some about that below.

Comika has been working in her career for some time now and has numerous credits to her name. Besides being a TV and short film producer and screenwriter, she’s also an actress. She had a reoccurring role on Saints and Sinners and has been a guest star/co-star on shows such as CSI: Miami, Nash Bridges and in short films such as First Impressions, Hoax, and Unlucky Stars.

As you’ll see during the interview, she’s not only intelligent, but very outgoing and extremely funny!

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Hi Comika, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you’ve joined me from Los Angeless in cold, snowy Ohio today – I hope you brought some of your warmth along with you! Come in for some hot coffee and we’ll settle in to talk. How do you take your coffee?

Hey Erin! I’ll have a Vodka and cannabis latte with almond milk. It’s cool if you don’t have almond milk.

Erin: The only milk I drink IS almond milk! Ha! It might be the cannabis I’m short on. Tell us a little more about you and your work so anyone doesn’t know you can become acquainted!

Comika: Well I started writing and performing with Rhodessa Jones’ Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco before attending Emerson college. I specialize in horror/thriller screenplays with a social commentary edge.

Erin: That’s so amazing! I love the poster for Bango as well as the film. But for others, tell us what’s Bango about? Where can one watch?

Comika: Thank you! Bango is actually the first episode of a horror anthology I wrote set in a creepy California suburb called HINTERLAND ZOO where every house is the nightmare next door. It’s about a quiet couple taking a walk on the wild side that goes sideways real quick! You can watch it on Amazon Prime & our website www.bangofilm.com takes you right to it.

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We’re pitching the rest of the anthology later this year so please leave a review on Amazon if you end up watching. Every review helps. And please feel free to be completely honest, if you dont like it just say why… My favorite review so far is “What psycho wrote this?” Mmm… Delicious.

Bango

Erin: You’ve also written and acted in a horror web-series turned film The Grey Area and it’s won so many awards! Congratulations! Can you tell us about it?

Comika: Yes, The Grey Area has been upgraded to a feature film; It was a lot of work to push that through but it’s on! We just shot the second chapter last November with Zorina Juan directing and my partner in crime Eric Shapiro, who directed Bango, producing and keeping blood off the furniture.

Erin: The Grey Area sounds fun. I know you’ve described it as “the female version of Supernatural that meets the West Coast version of Law & Order on the streets of San Francisco.” With it being a psychological thriller, it’s sounds totally like something I want to check out!

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What’s it like writing and/or producing films or shorts compared to acting in them?

 Comika: Hmm… Sorta like the difference between running a restaurant or dropping in for a meal!

 Erin: Do you ever direct? Or aspire to? Why or why not?

Comika: Nah. I love my director allies, but I don’t envy their job. Directing is like trying to organize changing Baby Godzilla’s diaper. No really! Think about it: There are a lot of people around. Lots of destruction. Lotsa crap to deal with. At least one crying monster. And if it doesn’t come off well… it’s all your fault!

Erin: Haha!! I don’t think I want that job either. And which of all the above do you like better in general and which do you prefer in horror?

Comika: I love writing. I prefer that over everything in any genre!

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Winning an Award for The Grey Area. Photo supplied by Comika Hartford.

Erin: What do you feel women bring to the horror genre that is more distinctive than men? How do you feel women shine in the genre?

Comika: Mmm… well being a woman involves a lot of blood and dealing with rape culture so… Yeah. Horror is kinda our genre. We own it.

Erin: What do you think most people of either gender can do better to support women in horror?

Comika: Watch our movies! There’s a lot of great work happening. The Soska sisters are doing a remake of Cronenberg’s Rabid, Aislinn Clark’s The Devil’s Doorway is on Hulu, and Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer looks creepy af!

Erin: What types of themes do you explore or want to explore in your screenwriting?

Comika: I like to explore religious themes and mythology; I am very intrigued by the idea of vengeance- based deities.

Erin: What is a piece of writing or book or film or all by a woman in horror truly touched you, was memorable to you, or inspired you?

Comika: Kasi Lemmons’ Eves Bayou! It still messes me up.

Erin: Who are some women in horror you admire and who would you recommend to others to get to know?

Comika: Nikyatu Jusu came out strong at Sundance with Suicide by Sunlight. She is definitely someone to watch.

Erin: Have you ever thought of writing short stories or a book in the horror genre (or any other genre)?

Comika: I think I’d like to write a kid’s show… Seriously!

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Comika acting! Photo supplied by Comika Hartford.

Erin: What are some of your current or upcoming releases?

Comika: Well I’m working on a screenplay about Black vampires that travel to the Americas during slavery to rescue their kidnapped relatives. It’s called Legacy and much like American history it’s filled with blood, torture, and genocide… Yeah. Good times!

Erin: Oh, wow! And though true, the film sounds like fun! I can’t wait to hear updates on that.

Where can everyone find you to connect?

Comika: You can find me at comikahartford.com which connects to Facebook, I’m @blamethewriter on Instagram, and you can follow our progress with The Grey Area at:

www.enterthegreyarea.com

Erin: Thank you so much for joining us today, Comika! It was such a pleasure and please feel free to stop back by anytime! 😊

Comika: Thanks Erin… Um, can I have the rest of this Vodka to go?

Erin: Of course you can, how else would you juggle all the horrifying stuff you have on your plate? Please stop back by for me when Legacy is set to air.

Thanks to Comika for joining us!

Comika

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Filed under Q and A with Authors, women in horror