Mystery Books News is delighted to welcome mystery author Lori Armstrong as a guest blogger today. Lori is the author of the Julie Collins mystery series, the fourth book of which was the winner of the 2009 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original. Today she's introducing a new series character, Mercy Gunderson – a straight-shooting, sharp, and tough former Army sniper – in No Mercy (Touchstone Hardcover, 978-1-4165-9095-8, $25.00).
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Photo courtesy Simon & Schuster
Last week I was discussing my latest work in progress with another writer and I detailed some of the external conflicts, which are unique to this part of the country. This author cautioned me about not getting too in depth or I’d risk being labeled a “regional” writer if I didn’t broaden my scope. Being a glass half-empty person, that attitude got my back up. Because really? Who wants to be labeled?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I don’t want to write a broad overview of the area I live in; I want to shove it under a microscope and break it down piece by piece. The good, the bad and the unpopulated. The setting I write about isn’t fictional. It’s real. Making the setting come alive for readers who’ve never stepped foot in the west? Without sounding all purple prose-y? That’s the tricky part.
I’m a visual person, so I spend a fair amount of time staring out the car window when I’m researching local areas. It might sound like an excuse to daydream, but it really is work, watching the play of light and shadow through dust-covered prairie grasses or gauging the height of the rock cliffs in the distance so I can accurately describe not just the physical appearance of the setting, but also the feeling that scenery evokes. I scribble notes, sometimes I take pictures, but my first, immediate impression of the land in that particular season is usually the strongest and that’s the one I want to relay to readers.
The opening scene in No Mercy came to me on a late summer day as I gazed across a bone-dry field out in the middle of nowhere. The silence was absolute. No wind. No cattle. No bugs. No people. Just flat land for miles and miles, without buildings or trees to break up the endless horizon. As I stood on that dusty section of dirt, the heat drying my skin, the sun scorching away any type of moisture, I realized a body wouldn’t last long in such a desiccated environment. Something clicked. I knew I had my setting for the book. The plot grew out of that backdrop.
I also knew that my main character had to be a product of that harsh landscape. Resilient. Unapologetic. Former Army sniper Mercy Gunderson fits that description down to the bone. In her I’ve created a universal character with regional flare—the best of both worlds—and that’s a label even I can live with.
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About No Mercy: When United States Army Sniper Mercy Gunderson returns home on medical leave, she finds that South Dakota may not be any safer for her than Iraq. Stoic and tough-as-nails Mercy already has plenty on her mind—the death of her beloved father, her immature sister Hope, her troublemaking teenage nephew Levi, and greedy investors looking to buy the Gunderson family’s sprawling ranch. Not to mention dealing with the stress of combat nightmares and the stubborn traditions of a small town that pushed her away in the first place.
When a dead Sioux boy shows up on her land, Mercy is pulled into the investigation of a killing spree targeting local Native American teens. Tragedy strikes again and the body count continues to rise, so Mercy seeks justice on her own terms—in what might be the most dangerous mission of her life. As she begins to unravel the truth behind the shocking crimes taking place in her hometown, she uncovers dark and dangerous secrets that have her racing to stop a killer before he destroys everything she’s fought for.
Lori Armstrong weaves a compelling tale of mystery and violence, while capturing the rugged landscape of South Dakota and the often troubled relationship between the Indian and white communities. With a wonderful heroine to fall in love with and a gripping mystery, No Mercy will have readers’ hearts racing and pages turning.
About the author: Lori G. Armstrong left the firearms industry in 2000. The author of the Julie Collins mystery series, her novel Snow Blind was awarded the 2009 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original by The Private Eye Writers of America. Her books have won the Willa Cather Literary Award, and have been nominated for the High Plains Book Award and the Daphne du Maurier Award. Lori is a fourth generation South Dakotan and lives with her family in Rapid City. Visit her website at LoriArmstrong.com.
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