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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Surfing at Good Harbor Beach

Surfing at Good Harbor Beach plays a role in the mystery at the center of Burning Questions. Last month I asked Joey C, the guru of the blog GoodMorningGloucester to ask his followers whether they knew anyone who claimed to have surfed there prior to 1963. No one responded. The picture above is of me surfing there in 1964, but I rode my first wave there in 1963. I've never been first before, but until someone steps up with evidence that they rode waves at Good Harbor, or anywhere in Cape Ann for that matter before 1963, I'm laying claim to being the first.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Special price reduction on Flight of the Sorceress. Now only $2.99

This just in. Wild Child Publishing is offering gift certificates knocking $3.00 off the price of The Flight of the Sorceress good until Dec. 31, 2011. Special $3.00 discount on Sorceress e-books.

Burning Questions e-book is $3.99!

Heads up! If you want to buy Burning Questions as an e-book and go to the publisher website: Whiskey Creek Press it will tell you that the price is $6.99. We are in the process of changing the price, but alas, the holidays have interceded and the webmaster had drunk his fill of eggnog. It is only $3.99 on the Amazon site so go to Burning Questions Kindle edition.  I'd prefer that you buy directly from the publisher because Amazon takes a 55% cut but I'd rather you get the book sooner than later and I don't want my readers to overpay.

Also, for all you disappointed contestants who didn't win the giveaway that ends on 12/25, I intend to give away 2 more paperback copies on Goodreads in January. There are also two copies up for a January giveaway on LibraryThing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Class warfare in Burning Questions

Q. In your blurb for Burning Questions, you say that “There’s class warfare in a New England fishing community when the teenage heir to a Gloucester MA fortune is found shot after recently witnessing a hotel being torched. Can you describe what you mean by ‘class warfare?’”

A. For me class warfare begins with the actor’s motivation for behavior. First, the actor has to identify with a particular class. Second, the actor needs to justify his/her behavior consistently with the class identification. A worker who pilfers her employer, and justifies it by saying: “The boss is rich. He won’t miss it. And besides, he pays starvation wages.” is engaged in an act of class warfare. A wealthy boss who fires an injured worker to avoid paying compensation and justifies it by simply believing the worker is malingering and gaming the system is also engaging in class warfare. This king of under-the-radar class warfare goes on every day just about everywhere. Only when it gets violent will we read about those incidents in the paper. We prefer to think that it’s just a bad apple, but it originates in a sense of injustice based upon one’s class.

When my characters in Burning Questions speak the exhibit a “class subconsciousness” that translates into their actions. Here’s what some of them have to say:

Teresa Lima, Christina’s mother, uses the example of Teddy Kennedy at Chappaquiddick to tell Christina she should break off her relationship with Kenny, her rich boyfriend:

“One way or the other, Kennedy’ s gonna get out of this clean. You just watch. He comes from those people who always get away clean. That’s why they do the things they do. ’Cause they get away with shit. Daddy or someone always comes in with the bucks an bails ’em out.’ …when people like us run with them, an’ the shit hits the fan, we’re the one’s that catch it. We either get hurt or the blame.”

Christina tells Nate about failing in her attempt to explain to her boyfriend, Kenny, her fear that she will become like the girls she babysits for:

“He didn’t understand,” she said, her shoulders drooping. “Mr. Lewis, I mean Nate, look. Know how I get my spending money? Baby-sitting. I don’t get no allowance or nothing. And you know who I baby-sit for? Girls my age, or a couple of years older. They’re on welfare, Nate, and food stamps.” … “And they got two kids already, snottin’ and poopin’ up their three-room apartments. Know what their idea of fun is? An evening at the local tavern, and I don’t mean this place. And when they get up the next morning and the bed beside them is still warm but empty and they walk into the kitchen and see the guy left them a ten on the table, they know what they are and all they’re ever gonna be and they sit there cryin’ ’til its time to feed their little brats. And I get some of that money for watching the kids.

“Nate, what Kenny couldn’t understand was the fear poor people like me got. Folks with money, they don’t know that fear.”

When asked whether Steven diSimone may have sexually assaulted Christina, Charlene, the diSimone’s Caribbean maid says: 

“I got a daughter jus’ her age back in Jamaica, you know. She a pretty girl too. It da worst fo’ dem, you know, ’cause da rich man, he like ta taste da honey, you know. But when he finish his dinner, den next day he want to taste sumptin’ diff’ent. An’ he can do dat easy enough, ’cause he rich. But da pretty po’ girl, she gonna jus’ end up yestuday’s dinner, she don’t watch herself, you know.”

Nate Lewis explains to Abby, his Yankee blueblood girlfriend why he thinks Kenny’s murderer will escape justice:

“They’re rich and connected. They’ve got the best lawyer in town and the judge and the cops in their pocket. What’s a poor girl’s death against those odds? Hell, even Marilyn Monroe went down in flames under those circumstances... ”

Steven diSimone, Kenny’s wealthy stepfather tells Nate why he thinks Christina’s murderer will never be brought to justice:

“(N)o one’s going to testify that they know anything about any arson. No one’s going to pursue an investigation of a dead teenage girl who was despondent over the death of her boyfriend and the end of a possible marriage that would have made her rich. Her accusations against me wouldn’t cut it even if she were alive.”

When blueblood Trish Foster, the victim’s sister, describes the nearly six-foot tall Christina as:

“Little Lolita, the Portuguese bombshell.” She’s saying Christina seduced the murdered teenager. Kenny’s’s her victim. And she’s also disparaging the girl’s ethnicity. Plus, by diminishing her size, she’s subtly diminishing her. There’s an unseemly ethnic subtext in the description.

Nate and Abby, his Yankee blueblood girlfriend, have an argument about her withholding sex:

“Were you just slumming? You wanted to see what dating a Jew without money was like?”
“And you. Is it just that you wanted to screw a Yankee? Sometimes, when we were together, I got the feeling that all you wanted was to get into my pants. You wanted that trophy. After that it would have been over, right?”

When Christina’s disappears the cops refuse to pursue Nate’s lead because they don’t want to inconvenience rich people to save a poor girl. Nate, tells a police investigator:

 “I told the police last night that the two guys drove by me in a new black Continental. But you did nothing about it.”…

The police inspector shrugs it off:
“ You get down to the rich part of the county, Manchester, Prides Crossing, Beverly Farms, there’s probably dozens of those cars,” (Detective) Poole said and shrugged. “ You want us to roust every millionaire in Essex County?”

Just about every exchange of dialogue Burning Questions hints of a societal double standard ⎯a privileged rich class that gets a pass and a suspect poor class that gets accused. As you read the novel notice the undercurrents of disrespect and humiliation. That’s class warfare in my book.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Burning Questions by Barry S. Willdorf

Burning Questions

by Barry S. Willdorf

Giveaway ends December 25, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, December 16, 2011


What will it take to put YOU between the virtual covers of a brand new e-copy of Burning Questions? Amazon is now selling it for only $3.99.
There’s murder, Russian roulette, burning hotels, Mafia, a NAZI general’s overcoat, a ghost town, witches, wild doggies, some sex, surfing, cops and donuts, crooked politicians and lawyers, some religion, a little bit of marijuana and pizza. It’s just the right length to read on a single plane trip across the country. Why settle for a crappy airline movie when you can read about all this good stuff? Part Two of this trilogy, A Shot in the Arm is coming up in April . Why not read part one first? Do you really want to be Left Behind?

Buy one before Jan. 1, 2012 and I’ll give you a second copy free. So when you give that certain somebody that new Kindle this holiday season, they can have something to read on it. Buy one on Amazon. (Here's their link, so you hardly have to lift a finger: buy Burning Questions. ) When Amazon sends you an order confirmation, email a copy to me at with the email address of the person to whom you want me to send the gift copy. I will send them a copy. That's it: two copies for $3.99.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


PART TWO of the 1970's Trilogy A SHOT IN THE ARM has just gotten the green light for an April 2012 publication date! We're working on the galleys and the cover right now. Here's a preview:

Twenty thousand dollars was a hell of a lot of dough back in 1973, especially if it came in cash and you didn’t mention it to the tax man. In many nice parts of San Francisco, you could get three bedrooms, a view of downtown, and have some bread left over. Scuttlebutt told me that twenty Gs was the standard retainer for someone looking at a murder rap, so that was how much I quoted Umoja Simama.

I was running a shoestring law practice in the Mission at the time. One of his lieutenants, Oso Pardo, showed up at my office with a silvery metal briefcase, snapped it open and dumped packets of bills—a year’s supply of cash—all over my desk. I’d hoped that by asking for that kind of money, Umoja would go looking for another mouthpiece. I wanted out, especially for the sake of my relationship with Christina. But as fate had it, Umoja was unaccountably flush at just that moment. 

Buy Burning Questions. Keep your proof of purchase and you'll get a discount on A Shot in the Arm!

Monday, November 28, 2011


"Finished Burning Questions in 2 nights. A ripping good yarn- especially the denouement! Looking forward to the 2nd part of the trilogy. " Joan Simon, Sebastopol, CA

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Give yourself or a friend my new mystery, “Burning Questions.” Get the special $3.00 holiday discount for the E-Book version. Now only $3.99 at Amazon.
For immediate download to a Kindle or other e-reading devices, use this Amazon Kindle Store link:BURNING QUESTIONS purchase

“A poor fisherman’s daughter must fight for her life when her wealthy boyfriend is found dead and she is blamed.”
•    A terrific crime mystery!   I can’t wait to read Parts II and III of the “1970′s Trilogy.” Steve Rohde, Los Angeles, CA
•    I was especially taken with the characters and atmosphere. Mark Curchack, Philadelphia, PA
•    Just the right amount of wide-eyed innocence/hard-boiled detective and sarcasm! Janie Tyre, Menlo Park, CA
•     I can’t put down Burning Questions. Maggie Livings, Fredericksburg, TX
•    Bravo!!  It kept me up long after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep. Todd Endelman, Ann Arbor, MI

Friday, November 18, 2011

The NAZI General’s Coat

From Burning Questions: The NAZI General's Coat
The cottage was chilled and dank from lack of recent occupancy. Walter had been somewhere down south for quite a while, and we’d not made enough appearances during our few prior weekends together to take the edge off the damp- ness. Abigail took off her coat, shivered dramatically and asked me to make a fire. She excused herself and went off into the workshop, leaving me to scrounge about for kindling and old newspaper. I’d just put a match to the paper when an enormous fur-trimmed coat, headless, without hands protruding from its sleeves, waddled up behind me and said; “Boo!” Peeking out from a gap beneath a buttonhole was Abigail, grinning.
“What the hell is that?” I chuckled, rising from the hearth where my fire was just beginning to take off.
“It’s a German general’s greatcoat. My daddy got it in the War. The officer who owned it didn’t need a coat anymore.”
“Must have been one hell of an officer,” I said. The great- coat looked like it was built for someone around six-six and more than three hundred pounds. The shoulders could have accommodated a fully padded NFL lineman. About twenty- five clowns could have popped out of it. But it was a NAZI coat and that made me uncomfortable. How the hell did Walt Forbes get his hands on a NAZI general’s coat?

“C’mon in,” she said, poking a hand out. She began unfastening a couple of the buttons. “Yeah, what for?”
“I didn’t see that on the menu,” I bantered.
 “Rockport’s a dry town,” she replied. “It won’t be dry in here!”
Now maybe the Pope could resist a come-on like that, but I wasn’t him. I stepped into the NAZI general’s coat to happily discover that it was all Abigail was wearing. The interior was more of the same fur, thick and clingingly warm. I felt like I was in a Third Reich womb.
“Take off your clothes,” she whispered, closing the coat around us so that it became pitch black, except for a spot of light where an Aryan head once had perched. I hoped he’d lost it the hard way.
“Doesn’t the fur feel fabulous on your bare skin?” she said.
“ You’ll feel more fabulous on my bare skin. ”
We danced around in the dark, bumping into things we couldn’t identify. She unfastened my belt and helped me off with my shirt. I worried we might fall into the fire but luckily we toppled onto the couch. Her nipples were erect, reaching out to me, begging to be kissed. I was as hard as I’d ever been. I wanted to enter her then, but she resisted. She made us stand up, then slowly slid her face down the front of me, exhaling hot breath along the way until she found what we both wanted her to find.
I asked her to lie down, so we could make proper love. She told me “no;” that this was “more delicious.” She said that it was better to take things slowly, to tease, to tantalize. She told me to trust her on that. Sensing my frustration, she told me, “Don’t worry, Nate,” in a hushed whisper. “We’ll get there, but this way will be better.” And though it wasn’t what I had in mind, and we were in a place where, when my mind turned to where I was, gave me the creeps, it was a lot better than nothing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Photo Tour of the Scene of the Crime

The time is September-October 1969

The place is Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Here are some of the scenes that inspired the narrative for Burning Questions (and in case you were wondering, yes, they are all from Gloucester.) The side captions are taken from the book.

We were in the midst of a New England Indian summer, warm and windless. Massachusetts Bay was as smooth as a mirror and met the faded blue sky seamlessly.

Inside, those homes reeked of rancid cooking oil and stale cigarettes. The furniture needed re-upholstering. The tea cups were chipped and unwashed, the cookies—if there were any at all—were stale.

I set out when the last hues of sunset had quit and the purple of evening had taken over. 

 I coaxed my sputtering ’62 Valiant up a driveway that curled like a cat’s tail along their steep hill of freshly- mowed, green lawn. Up ahead, nestled in a grove of mature oak and maple just beginning to turn, loomed a three-story fieldstone mansion with a peaked, gray slate roof.


Back in the Twenties, an eccentric millionaire inventor by the name of John Hays Hammond, Jr., AKA “The Father of Remote Control,” looted some impoverished corner of the Old World by disassembling one of their castles, stone by stone, and running off with it to the States. He decided that Gloucester was just the right place to put his souvenir.

 There’s a monument to them on the esplanade, a stone’s throw from The Fort. A heroic helmsman in full foul weather gear peers out to sea, above a recitation of Psalm 107, verses 23-24: “They That Go Down to The Sea In Ships.”
 The Fort was a tough little neighborhood on a small peninsula that long ago was the site of a real fort guarding Gloucester’s inner harbor.

The ocean was gray and calm. A few gulls cruised lazily above a solitary lobsterman, waiting for him to discard something edible. 

Jimmy scoped out the surfing conditions, figured that Kenny would be surfing longer than he actually was, not counting on the waves going flat...

I decide to head down the path to the reservoir....
I’m not about to go lookin’ for no dogs. I make my way quick to the railroad tracks and walk along ’em ’til I get to the station.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Please join me at
653 Chenery Street, San Francisco, CA 94131-3033 (415) 586-3733
Sunday, November 13, 2011 @ 3:00 P.M.
for a reading from my novel
The Flight of the Sorceress.

Thursday, November 3, 2011



A.  When most of us think ghost town, it’s probably a place out in the west that once was a booming mining town. Places looking like the photo on the left, that were completely abandoned after the Mother Lode played out. All that is left are dilapidated, slumped-over wooden structures with faded signs revealing that they were once saloons or hotels, or maybe a “sporting house.” But that’s not what you get on the east coast, where only one or two places can legitimately answer to the name “ghost town.”

One such place is Dogtown. Sitting smack in the middle of Cape Ann (the ‘other” cape) in Massachusetts, its 3600 acres appear today much as they did two centuries ago --a jumble of deciduous trees, brush, blueberry patches, bog and granite boulders.  Only a few stone foundations remain to mark the location of what were, in the mid-1700s, perhaps as many as one hundred homes.

Dogtown has been a ghost town now since the 1830s when its last resident, a freed slave named Cornelius Finson, who the locals called Black Neil, was found with his feet frozen and was carted off to the poorhouse. But for many years before that the place was literally “going to the dogs” its last handful of residents abandoning the hounds that they kept for safety before heading for the now, post-Revolutionary War secure harbor area of Gloucester.

Fear of pirates and storms led the early settlers to homestead the high ground in around 1650.  Over the ensuing one hundred and eighty years, Dogtown was home to Revolutionary War heroes including a genuine Minuteman who after raising hue and cry that the British were coming died in the ensuing battle and a seaman who after escaping British impressment fought several battles and was seriously wounded at Yorktown. It was also the hood for a couple of witches with reputations: Judith Rhines, seductress of a preacher, and the anointed “Queen of Witches” Tammy Younger. Years later it was the site of the goring unto death by a bull of a blowhard, braggart, and drunkard with the inapt name of James Merry.

If the pirates, war heroes, witches, freed slaves and gored dead weren’t enough, the whole kit and caboodle of the place was bought by a rich guy who ran for president on the National Prohibition Party ticket in 1940. If elected, he promised that, in addition to bringing back prohibition, he'd outlaw gambling, drugs, “indecent” books, magazines and films. Sex was too difficult to talk about altogether for this bunch. This Roger Babson, who founded several colleges, had a penchant for hiring the unemployed to carve Calvinist creed into Dogtown’s boulders.  Soon enough he had 24 big rocks, now “Babson’s Boulders” looking much like gravestones, bearing such homilies as “never try never win,” “help mother”, “be on time”,  “keep out of debt” and “save’. Then he gave the land to the City of Gloucester to be preserved.

My mystery-suspense novel, Burning Questions, has many prominent Dogtown scenes. Tammy Younger, the witch and James Merry, the gored one, crop up.  There’s a chase scene. The dogs make a howling appearance. And there’s no getting around the fact that, due to its remoteness, size and cover, it’s a very convenient place to dump a body, if that’s what you have to do.

Fiction using Dogtown as a location for the action includes Percy MacKaye, Dogtown Common (MacMillan, 1921) Francis Blessington, The Last Witch of Dogtown (Curious Traveler Press, 2001) and Anita Diamant, ''The Last Days of Dogtown," (Simon & Schuster, 2005).  But Burning Questions is the only one that takes the reader to the contemporary ghost town.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

 I was especially taken with Burning Questions, the characters and atmosphere therein.  I have a friend who lives in Gloucester who I directed to the book. Mark Curchack, Philadelphia, PA

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Talking about Class Warfare in Burning Questions

Q. You have intimated that one of the underlying themes of your novel, Burning Questions, is class warfare. Can you explain what you mean and give some examples?
A. Sure.  Keep in mind that it’s done subtly. This is not a polemic. Accusations of “class warfare” are au courant at the moment, especially from people on the right who seem to be whining that things like a progressive income tax are discriminatory against the rich. But that’s not the way it works in reality.  And it is not the way it is treated in the book.
        Burning Questions is set in a fishing community (Gloucester, MA) in 1969. A rich kid is found shot in the head. When his mom rejects the coroner’s verdict of suicide, the Yankee aristocrats and their minions in city government instinctively turn their suspicions on his girlfriend, Christina, who hails from a poor, Portuguese fishing family. They accuse her of being a gold-digger. That’s a form of prejudice that, when it brings the cops down on her, becomes a form of class warfare. The rich would rather see her take the fall than have the kid declared a suicide, which is a mortal sin.
       The central theme of the book revolves around hotel arson. But the arson is condoned and maybe even facilitated by the powers that be. Why? Because syndicates own the hotels, and the intent is to obtain insurance proceeds that will fund real estate development. That’s a rich folks’ game. Imagine how different the law’s response would be if a disgruntled chambermaid torched the hotel.
      Another example in the book is the relationship between Nate and his girlfriend, Diana. He went to a third-rate law school. She attends Wellesley College, a very upscale women’s college that boasts alumna such as Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Madame Chiang Kai Shek. She’s the daughter of a famous artist. She acts brashly at times, with a sense of privilege and impunity. Unlike Nate, she brazenly goes where she shouldn’t, confident that she can use her privileged status to get her out of trouble ¾much like Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick. Nate knows that he can’t get away with the same delinquencies.  Certainly Christina can’t. The different ways the characters are treated by the cops in the story highlights the privileges of wealth.
      Are these examples of class warfare? It is subtle but I think they are. Money buys a different set of rules. So the jails are filled with low-end miscreants when they could just as well be filled with rich criminals who steal much more and end up doing more harm overall. 
     It was Anatole France who pointed out "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." He was saying that a land that is ruled by the profit motive is a land where there is, at its very core, class warfare. Its laws reflect that conflict. It is absurd to pretend that there is no such war going on in America. Apropos of that reality are the evictions of Occupy Wall Street protesters from their campsites.  Sure, they are messy and dirty, but that is not really why the authorities are bring the police down on them. It is the content of their protest that the city bosses who direct the police don’t like. If they liked the content, they’d work something out short of arrests. All over the world there have been protests that have gone on day and night for months and even years. (Think of the mothers’ demonstrations in Latin America calling attention to their children abducted during military coups.) Somehow, even more repressive societies than our own have managed to live with these extended protests. 
       The story in Burning Questions couldn’t, or wouldn’t happen if Nate and, or Christina were members of the ruling elite. They wouldn’t have been picked on the way they were. Rather, they would have been protected

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Question 2: Is Burning Questions both a mystery and a memoir?

Q.    The death of Kenny diSimone that you have said was inspired by an actual homicide took place when you were already an attorney. That’s years after the ‘50s and ‘60s when you lived in Cape Ann.  Did you set your story then to introduce elements of memoir?

A.   There’s no question that there are elements of memoir in this mystery, but it's not really that. My definition of a memoir is "What you choose to remember."  While it is true that much of the background in the novel comes from my recollections of growing up on Cape Ann at a time when the economy of the area was changing, there is too much fiction in the story to qualify under my definition. I don't remember a lot of the things in the story because they never happened - although there are some close approximations. 

For instance, there were several hotels that burned down and Gloucester changed from a wealthy escape location to a commuter burb of Boston. Until WWII, rich people got on the Boston& Maine and went up to some big hotels in Gloucester for weekends, holidays and trysts. The biggest hotel was The Oceanside in Magnolia (a section of Gloucester.)  It had 600 rooms and was extremely upscale. It supported a whole economy of pricey shops in Magnolia. But then they built Route 128 and Gloucester became within range of the average Joe from Boston, along with it acquiring a commuter population. And of course, along with the new commuter population came the usual real estate speculation.The big old hotels were no longer attractive. The rich headed for more exotic locales.  And so, one by one, the old wooden hotels burnt down. The Oceanside burned in 1957. It was getting a frayed at the edges by then.  Everyone suspected it was arson and when the same thing started happening to other venues it became a sort of “no brainer.”

Meanwhile, Russian and Japanese factory ships were scooping up all the fish and the old Portuguese and Italian fishing fleet couldn’t hold its own against these behemoths.  So that part of the economy was changing as well. That economy began to feel the pain.  In the novel, Kenny’s stepfather Stephen is in construction and is profiting from these changes. It lends credence to the diSimone claim that Christina (the daughter of a lobsterman) was gold-digging. 

All of this is grist for a “motive-to-kill” mill.  I didn’t want to just do a psycho-drama about teenage suicide (although a lot of the reasons teens kill themselves is addressed in Kenny’s psychological profile.) I wanted to place Kenny’s death in the context of what was really happening. That seemed to me to be also a story worth telling. Greed. Corruption. Sexual ambiguities. Class warfare.  Good stuff for a murder mystery.

Still, it’s fiction and it would be a mistake to read all of my narrative as factual. I make some very big digressions from the actual facts in Burning Questions. We’ll discuss some of those in another Q&A.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Weekly Question

Every week, I will be posting a question about "Burning Questions." Then I will try to answer it without spoiling the story for readers. If you have one, please don't hesitate to add it to the list.

Here's the first one:

Q: You have a very detailed coroner's report in the book, along with other forensic materials. "Did the autopsy report concluding that the victim of a shooting was a teenage suicide come from one of your actual cases?

A: Over twenty years ago a woman came to me with a stack of materials concerning the death of her son. He was found shot to death in a manner very similar to the description of Kenny's homicide in Burning Questions. She thought her son had been murdered and had been fighting with the police about their having written it off as just another teenage suicide. She told me a lot of facts that raised reasonable doubts about the police conclusion and wanted someone who could convince them to re-open the file. One of the problems she was having was that her son had recently been arrested by the same police officer who also was the investigating officer on the homicide. She claimed that her son knew that this cop was involved in some illegal activities and that he had a motive to kill the teenager. It seemed obvious to her that the police were involved in covering up the truth. I took a look at the documents and concluded that there wasn't very much that I could do, short of launching an independent investigation with PI's, a medical examiner, a court order to get the body exhumed, and who knows what else. I didn't want to take this woman's money on such a long-shot, meanwhile ruffling the feathers of a small-town police department. But I kept a copy of the paperwork in my files all these years. It seemed like a good story. I especially was interested in the way the local authorities besmirched the kid's reputation to discourage any investigation. Of course, I have changed just about every fact other than the forensics of the actual shooting. I read statistics about teenage suicide before writing Burning Questions. Some of the reasons kids kill themselves are incorporated into the story: drugs, alcohol, sexual orientation, parental abuse. It's a really good jumping off place for a discussion of the problem and also for a mystery.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Video Trailer Has Returned!

Okay, we're back in business with the video trailer. Check it out.
YouTube Burning Questions video trailer


If you are in the North Bay and want to hear more about my new novel, BURNING QUESTIONS, I will be reading at the Aqus Autumn Speakeasy Literary Saloon @ Aqus Cafe, Petaluma CA. Gather for a drink, a bite & a feast of words with hosts  Susan Bono & Ransom Stephens.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 7-9 p.m. @ Aqus  Cafe 189 H Street Petaluma, CA
Admission: $5 (free with meal or book purchase) to benefit Aqus & a literacy organization 

This will be a good time to meet Nate and Christina, characters who will grow on you over the decade of the 70s and whose adventures you will be sad to see ending after three books.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Video Trailer for Burning Questions is now on YouTube

Watch a video trailer for Burning Questions:

Monday, September 26, 2011

I just finished Burning Questions and loved it

  -- good interesting story,  fun, and just the right amount of wide-eyed innocence/hard-boiled detective/ and sarcasm! Janie Tyre, Menlo Park, CA

I am not fixin dinner because of you. I can't put down Burning Questions.

What a great story!! ... From the beginning you had me.  Those lines:  "....revealing lines etched in her face.  She had a good fifteen years on me.  I didn't mind the etching.  On her they looked good." 'Course, Ms. Ann didn't come close to hitting 65, still, it's the only way to look at it!!  And it only got better from there.  Maggie Livings, somewhere close to 100 miles outside of Austin TX.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Video Trailer under construction

I am heading to Gloucester this week to do a shoot for a Burning Questions video trailer. I expect to get pix of the Fisherman, Magnolia, Hammond Castle, Babson's Boulders in Dogtown, and I'll scan one of someone who looks like a young author surfing Good Harbor beach circa 1964. Watch for it on YouTube ar around Oct. 1.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Critical Acclaim for Burning Questions!

What a terrific crime mystery!  I was gripped from the first sentence.
You've got a real flair for storytelling, characters, dialogue, plot, and
suspense.I can't wait to read Parts II and III of the "1970's Trilogy."
Thanks for a great read. Steve Rohde author of AMERICAN WORDS

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Burning Questions, a new novel by Barry S. Willdorf will be available from Whiskey Creek Press August 1, 2011 in both e-book and print formats.


Chapter 1

On the day before I met Christina, I was doing a very credible impersonation of a bum. I’d even begun to believe it myself. But in my defense, I was facing the prospect of being drafted and there didn’t seem to be much point in having ambition.

I once had a professor of trial practice who began his classes by reading from an instruction judges routinely give to jurors at the beginning of a case:

“Remember to keep an open mind and do not form or express an opinion about the case until all the evidence has been received.”

He said it was sound advice for lawyers too. “If you fail to reserve your judgments...” he wagged his finger. “…someday you’ll find yourself in the middle of a trial confronted with a messy little fact that you overlooked. If you have to lose a case, don’t do it because, in your prejudice, you overlooked a messy little fact.”

If people had been following his advice, I’d never have met Christina Lima. We both were messy little facts.

* * *
I was absentmindedly tapping into a can of Krueger ale when a rag-top Coupe DeVille, just off the showroom floor, pulled onto Shore Road. Though much of her face was hidden by a broad-brimmed straw hat and oversized shades, enough epidermis was out there to tell that its driver was a classy lady with a “Coppertone tan.” She pulled to a stop beneath my window, got out and mounted the stairs slowly. Her slender hand gingerly dodged the splinters on my paint-chipped rail-ing. I didn’t know anybody who could afford a new Caddy. I assumed she’d come to the wrong address.

She was dressed in an expensive plaid skirt that stopped at mid-thigh, and a sleeveless top. Her fine-boned arms had muscle definition and despite some knobbiness in the knees, her legs were long, slim, and looked like they’d seen a lot of exercise. As she neared the top of the stairs, she removed her shades, revealing lines etched in her face. She had a good fifteen years on me. I didn’t mind the etchings. On her they looked good.

I licked a few lingering stalactites of ale foam from my ragged moustache and pushed open the torn aluminum screen door. She halted on the landing a step below me, looked up, rocked back and rolled her eyes.

Her judgment was justified. I was barefoot. My torn-at-the-knees jeans were grease-stained and hung low on my hips. A mis-buttoned blue and gold Sunoco work shirt falsely identified me as “Mike.” I topped this off with my well-worn Sunoco cap, my wild hair dashing for freedom below the rim.

“Ah hello,” she said in a high-pitched Yankee accent. Her eyes focused on the name on my shirt. “I’m looking for Nathan Lewis.”

“You found him,” I said, watching a disapproving frown replace the hopefulness of the moment before. “What can I do for you?”

She bit her lip then straightened out her face. “I’m Ann Foster diSimone,” she said, emphasizing the “Foster.” She seemed to assume that I recognized the name and held out her hand with reservation.

Her moniker didn’t register in my addled mind. “Pleased to meet you,” I responded, taking her hand, not certain how hard to squeeze. I decided that just a brief, flimsy tweak would suffice. She still hadn’t answered my question but something about her made an end run around my suspicious nature. “Place is a mess. Wasn’t expecting any company.” I looked back over my shoulder into the dust-infested gloom, shrugged, held open the door with a foot and made room for her. “C’mon in.”

She stepped in gingerly, as if expecting an ambush, while casting a judgmental eye around the place. Sucking breath, she stared out my front windows. Two weary lobster boats were pulling traps in the cove. Dusky blue clouds of fumes clung to their sterns while the rasps of their marine diesels penetrated the tranquility of our tiny village with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. We were in the midst of a New Eng-land Indian summer, warm and windless. Massachusetts Bay was as smooth as a mirror and met the faded blue sky seamlessly. Off to the west you could see the top half of Boston’s new Prudential Building peeking over the hills.

“You’ve got view,” she said, and sniffed. Her breathing was short, as if she were seeking to avoid inhaling the stench of a rotting corpse.

I pushed aside a week’s worth of Boston Globe newspapers to make room for her on my threadbare, Danish modern sofa. She accepted the invitation with reluctance and sat cautiously, her knees together, her purse balanced on top of them as if she were expecting to be goosed by a wayward spring. When she removed her hat, her heavily-frosted coif seemed to pop back into the shape her stylist had intended when she left the shop—like a semi-inflated beach ball in the hot sun. I sat facing her on the matching easy chair that made you feel like you were sitting on a toilet without a seat.

“It’s pretty hot, no?” I held up my brew. “Can I get you something? I’ve got more in the fridge.” I pointed toward a back wall where the Kelvinator—part of my trio of dinged-up appliances that included a scarred metal sink and coffee-stained GE electric stove—whined asthmatically.

She declined my offer.

“I got some Canada Dry. Tropicana? Maxwell House?”

She rejected each proposal in turn until she must have finally decided that I wasn’t going to stop making offers. “I’ll just have a glass of water, please,” she said with resignation.

I shrugged. I retrieved one of my cleanest glasses from the cupboard while I let the water run, and then waited as long as I could for the rust color to fade. “It’ll settle,” I assured her as I placed a glass of the opaque liquid on the table in front of her and waited some more for her to get around to telling me what the hell she was doing in my pad.

She fiddled with the glass, turning it in circles, but avoided taking a sip. Finally she said, “You were recom-mended to me, that is, by Timothy Cleary.” She jutted her prominent, cleft chin and scrunched her slightly upturned nose, making the etchings deepen at the corners of her eyes and mouth. “I need someone to conduct an investigation and prepare a report.”

I raised an eyebrow. Timothy Cleary was one of Gloucester’s most prominent attorneys. Senior partner of Cleary & Murphy, he’d served six terms on the City Council, one as mayor. Several years before, he’d turned down a governor’s appointment to be District Judge—Murphy took it. Now he shunned the spotlight.

The firm had originated as counselors to ship owners and the fish processing plants but, like the economy, it had morphed into representing real estate developers and the multi-nationals buying up everything of value in town. With offices above the Cape Ann Trust Company, Cleary & Murphy was the place to go if you wanted to get anything developed in Gloucester or Rockport. To be accepted as a client of Tim Cleary was to say you’d made it on Cape Ann.

I’d been a friend of old man Cleary’s son Jimmy since we were kids. We were among the very first surfers ever on the North Shore, but recently it seemed he’d moved on—grown up. The last time the surf was up, I couldn’t talk him into playing hooky from work. We used to call those jaunts “board meetings” but it was like he’d recently resigned. Still, Jimmy had pulled some major strings that summer to get me a few month’s work with the firm as an intern, work that had been undistinguished and which he knew would be spotty when there were waves to be ridden. So the recommendation was flattering yet curious. Ann Foster diSimone must have been a firm client, ergo wealthy, ergo able to pay, ergo fussy about who was involved in her affairs. Why the hell did the old man refer someone like her to someone like me? What incomprehensible piece of dirty work does he have in mind for me? “I’m not admitted yet,” I confessed.

She nodded. “Mr. Cleary told me.”

“I just graduated from Lowell Law School,” I disclosed, assuming that the lowly rank of the school would be a turnoff for a snob like her.

She smiled and I noticed a gap in her set of otherwise perfect white uppers. “He said you were just the person to make a few discrete inquiries on my behalf. He said that the investigators he knew wouldn’t be able to pry a word out of the kids, but that you probably could do it. If you didn’t know them, you’d know who did. I understand you surf. Kenny liked to surf.” She sniffed again.

“Just look out there, you dumb shit. Do you see any god-damn surf? Ocean’s been as flat as fucking stale beer since mid-September. No one surfs around here, lady,” I wanted to say. But I didn’t. Instead I stood up, straightened out my shirt and nodded in the direction of the ocean. “I was hoping for a hurricane season, some big waves to ride, but the great Kahuna’s gone AWOL.”

Was there anything I could say that would shake her determination to hire me? I decided to test the water. “I graduated in the top two-thirds of my class.”

“That’s wonderful,” she replied.

She didn’t give a damn about my pathetic academic re-cord. “I can’t work as an investigator,” I tried to explain. “Investigators need to be licensed. I’m not. Mr. Cleary knows that.”

“Mr. Cleary said you could work for me under the aegis of his firm.”

My eyes widened. “He did, huh?”

“And...that you’d be less expensive than an associate...” She blinked her baby blues in my direction.

“He did, huh?” My eyes narrowed. “Did he happen to mention my fee?”

“He said he’d leave that up to you. That he knew you’d be reasonable, once you heard the story.”

“I knew there’d be a story,” I said.

She grimaced. “My son was killed a month ago,” she replied almost as an admonishment while taking a nip on her lower lip to keep back tears. “He was shot.” She looked past me into the haze of Massachusetts Bay and continued, as if by rote. “The coroner ruled it suicide. They said Kenny had been playing Russian roulette.” She pulled back her far-away stare and caught my eye. “But that’s not what killed him. He was murdered.”

I felt like a heel. “Murdered? Like during a burglary or a fight, or premeditated?”

“The latter.” She refused to release her gaze.

“How do you know?”

“A mother knows these things.”

She must have seen my skepticism. “I’m not crazy, Mr. Lewis,” she said, teeth bared. “I know my son.” She pulled a worn front page from a Daily Times, dateline Wednesday, September 18, 1969, and pressed it into my palm.


Kenneth diSimone, 17, son of a prominent Gloucester family, was found dead of a gunshot wound yesterday at the family home. Police chief Jack Dunfey told the Times that the wound appeared to be self-inflicted.

Police reported that Ann Foster diSimone, the victim’s mother, found the teenager dead after re-turning from shopping. The victim was a popular junior at Gloucester High and a star halfback on the “Fighting Fishermen” football team, earning honor-able mention last year from the Eastern Mass Coaches’ Poll.

The victim’s stepfather, Gloucester developer Stephen diSimone, owner of the weapon involved, told the Times that his stepson was trained and experienced in the handling of firearms. District Attorney Kevin Rohan said that his office would review the matter once the police complete their investigation.

I finished reading and looked up.

“Do you know Doc Oliver?” she asked.

“Of course.” I nodded. Everyone knew the Doc. Bumbling quack turned druggist but in reality, soda jerk. “He’s just down on the corner. What’s he got to do with this?”

“He’s the assistant coroner who came up with the suicide opinion,” she said, her eyes rolling. “Enough said. Now, these.” She slid me a coroner’s report, a toxicology report, an autopsy report, a forensic physical evidence examination re-port, a reconstruction analysis, and a psychiatric report. The packet was two inches thick.

“Whoa!” I held up my hands to stop her. “I haven’t decided to take the case yet. That’s a lot of stuff. I need to talk to Mr. Cleary first. I shouldn’t even be looking at any of this stuff ’til I’ve got his okay to open a file. Besides, I only plan to be around for another two or three weeks at the most. Until I know whether I’m going to get drafted or not. If not, I’m heading to the Coast, maybe Hawaii.”

“Two or three weeks should be quite sufficient,” she said, replacing the paperwork in her purse. “It’s a small town.”

“What if I was to take the job, and I came to the conclusion that he did kill himself?” I asked.
She seemed to shudder at the possibility, caught herself and smiled. “But he most certainly did not kill himself, Mr. Lewis.”

“Could he have been having some kind of problem, a breakdown or something that would have made him depressed?”

She patted the stack of paper. “There’s a psychiatric re-port in the packet. They interviewed some of Kenny’s friends. You can start there if you want. But you should know, Mr. Lewis, Kenny was not insane. We were planning a trip to Hawaii for Christmas and he was quite excited about it. Now if he were planning to commit suicide, would he be acting that way? I doubt it. Don’t you?” She stood up and straightened her clothing. “Do you have a, uh, bathroom?”

It was a valid question, given what she’d seen of the place. “Sure.” I pointed to the door to my tiny bedroom, barely large enough for a double bed, a bureau and a night-stand. “Through there,” I said. “Don’t flush.”

She screwed up her face as if I’d offered her a trench latrine.

“This used to be a garage,” I explained. “That’s why it’s right up to the edge of Shore Road. It’s built on bedrock. Not a good choice for a septic system. So it backs up a lot. Landlord won’t fix it. I get about two flushes a day.”

“What do you do after that?” she asked, as if I were a do-cent on a slum tour.

“Mike’s Sunoco is only a couple of blocks down,” I told her while pulling on the logo of my shirt.

She decided to forgo the facilities. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Lewis,” she said, edging her way toward the door.

“I’ll talk to Mr. Cleary about this,” I replied, slowing down her departure. “If he gives me the okay, I’d like to meet at your home. You know, check out the scene. We can dis-cuss a fee then and I’ll take a look at the papers.”

She nodded and decided there was more to be said. “I found him, Nathan.” She choked it out. Blood rushed to her cheeks. Her temples began to throb. “I found my son, my child. On the floor. In his own blood—my flesh and blood.” She blinked again and again. “It’s not like at funerals, Nathan. They make the dead look good at funerals. What I saw was nothing like that. Nothing.” I thought she might cry, but she didn’t. Patricians don’t do that sort of thing with strangers. They were born with those stiff upper lips.

“The police took pictures. They didn’t want to give me copies. They said that the photos would be too disturbing.” She tapped her file. “How much more disturbing could they be than actually seeing your own child lying there? Touching his still-warm skin. The more they refused the more I had to have them. To remind me, Nathan. To remind me not to give up. I don’t know what your religion is,” she said, almost as an afterthought. “I’m Catholic. In our religion, suicide is a sin. I won’t have Kenny dying under this cloud. Do you understand? I won’t have it.” She gave me a thin smile. “I want someone who really wants to do this investigation, Nathan. Please don’t humor me.”

“No, no. I just need to talk to Mr. Cleary first. Give me your address and phone number. I’ll be in touch tomorrow.”

She handed me an embossed card with her information. I accompanied her to the door. “Please accept my condolences,” I said, touching her arm lightly, uncertain of what else to do.

She stepped down onto the landing. “I’ll be expecting your call, Nathan.”

I watched after her as she took the steps gracefully. She slipped behind the wheel of the black and chrome Caddy that was reflecting the late afternoon sun like a De Beers diamond. She didn’t return my wave.

The glass of water had cleared. I looked at her card. 375 Hesperus Ave. The stone mansion across the way from the Hammond Castle. So she lives in that place! I always wanted to know who the rich SOBs were who lived there. Tomorrow, I’d actually get to see the inside.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Update: My new mystery-thriller, "Burning Questions" has made it to the printer. I expect to receive the print version with two weeks. The e-book should be published on August 1, 2011. "Burning Questions" is the first of a my 1970s Trilogy. More to come .... Keep posted.....

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Possible Cover for "Burning Questions"

Here's the latest cover proposal for Burning Questions. What do you think?

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Shot in the Arm

A Shot in the Arm is the second in the 70s Trilogy. Just got word from the publisher. July 2012 is the publication date.

Burning Questions is Almost here

Just finished the final edits. Book cover is in the works. Hang on to your hats!. We should have a publication by the end of the month.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Connect with my other sites!

My historical novel: THE FLIGHT OF THE SORCERESS is available now as an E book at Wild Child Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It will be in print shortly. Check it out at Flight of the Sorceress: The Blog .
Also, my short fiction, commentary, news and political ranting can be accessed at A Gauche Press 


New novels by Barry S. Willdorf to be published in print and as E books by Whiskey Creek Press

BURNING QUESTIONS: Someone is burning down all the old resort hotels in Gloucester, MA. Has the son of a town matriarch been killed because he knows who it is? Did he commit suicide by Russian roulette as the town fathers claim?  Or did his girlfriend, Christina Lima, the daughter of a poor Portuguese fisherman have a hand in his death? Nate Lewis is hired to find out, but when he falls in love with Christina they both become lethal targets for powerful interests. (Publication date: August 2011)

A SHOT IN THE ARM: Nate is hired to defend a black militant who is charged with murder after he confronts drug dealers who are flooding San Francisco with potent Asian heroin. When he discovers that the dealers are just the distribution arm of a covert government operation to finance arms dealings with Southeast Asian anti-communist guerrillas his life is in play and only Christina can save him.

THE FOURTH CONSPIRATOR: Soon after Christina takes a job as the PR representative at her cousin’s winery in Mendocino County an inheritance fight begins over its control and Christina is dragged into it. Meanwhile Nate is retained to represent a winery executive charged with killing a thief who is raiding the executive’s marijuana garden. Are the two events connected? It will take more murders to sort this one out.

And they'll have their very own blog! 1970s TRILOGY