Sins of Eden

Dec 31, 2018 by

Sins of Eden

After losing their jobs at Prospect PD, veteran detectives Sam Jenkins and John Gallagher set up shop as private investigators. But their life in the private sector is short-lived when their former colleague, Bettye Lambert, the new county sheriff, enlists them to investigate a seemingly cold missing person’s case.

Twenty-seven year old Tommy Lee Helton disappeared from the beautiful and idyllic Orr’s Valley section of Prospect where he lived. None of his family or friends can find him and no one can provide a clue to where he may have gone.

The closest thing to a lead comes from a beautiful woman who is a member of the environmentalist group to which Tommy Lee belongs. Her information leads Jenkins and Gallagher to a paper mill reportedly discharging toxic chemical waste into the river system of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The security supervisors at the mill, a former federal agent from the Diplomatic Security Service and a retired Marine Corps sniper had a serious confrontation with Helton during a demonstration organized by the activists. They soon become prime suspects in his disappearance.

As the search and investigation continues, an unrelated murder victim is found, more anomalies spring up, people are blatantly withholding information and nothing seems to be as it appears.
The question remains, with all those obstacles, can Jenkins and Gallagher find the missing person and restore order to their little chunk of paradise on “the peaceful side of the Smokies?”

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Read An Excerpt

Chapter One

The paint wasn’t dry on the walls before we started moving in.

“Ya know, Boss,” John said, “we should have bought new office furniture. That would give the place a touch o’ class. This old stuff, I don’t know. Clients judge you by the appearance of your office.”

No one will ever accuse former Detective John Gallagher of being financially savvy. And his wife is no better. They had living beyond their means down to a science—spending money like Crockett and Bowie the night before the Alamo fell.

I finished rubbing dark scratch remover into a scar on top of the old solid oak desk. “First thing, John, stop calling me boss. We’re partners in this cockamamie private detective business. I have a first name. Please use it.”

“Okay, B…uh, Sam. But you know how it is, old habits are hard to break.”

“Let’s put those words to music and get Bobby Vinton to sing it. The song should be more successful than we’ll ever be.” I shook my head. “I don’t know why I let you talk me into this private cop venture.”

John look shocked that I’d question the sanity of his goofy scheme.

“It was a good idea,” he said. “According to Lonnie Ray, we’ll make lots of money.”

“And we agreed to give Lonnie Ray Wilson seventy-five bucks for every hour he spends with us working on his computer, hacking into places where we shouldn’t be. You think he’s got a vested interest in suggesting we start this business?”

“Boss, you’re the voice of doom.”

I grunted and finished buffing the top of the old desk as I sneered at Gallagher. “There, see? These things have character. Between the Salvation Army and Goodwill, I bought four desks and eight chairs. After I tipped the kids who work there for helping me load this stuff into my truck, the whole shooting match cost us $320.00. You can’t get a bottom-of-the-line new desk for that—and it would be made from some kind of poisonous Chinese flake board that would give us cancer. Who needs new furniture? These may not be genuine antiques, but they have a special kind of class. They give the place sort of a…hardboiled, Philip Marlowe look. Vintage. Like us.”

John didn’t have a chance to comment when Bettye Lambert walked into the outer office.

“Good mornin’, gentlemen. How’s the new business goin’?”

“Well,” I said, “you’re looking good. The new job suits you.”

John jumped in with a compliment of his own. “Yeah, Sarge, uh, Sheriff, that outfit is way nicer than your old Prospect PD uniform.”

For the five years I’d known Bettye, during our time together at Prospect PD, I often thought of her as the loveliest desk sergeant on the planet. Now she’s the most beautiful sheriff. Her silky black blouse clung to her figure like one of the gowns worn by the Muses and Graces living above the clouds on Mount Olympus. Her straight beige skirt showed only an inch of knee and couldn’t have been more appropriate for a newly appointed female sheriff.

John, on the other hand, looked like a slightly larger than usual leprechaun whose tie was always too short. Or were his pants always too low?

“Thank you both,” she said. “I won’t lie and say I wasn’t overwhelmed when I started this new job, but so far, so good. I’m gettin’ to like it.”

John smiled.

I said, “Good.”

“But listen,” she said. “I came to see you guys and ask how you like bein’ private eyes?”

I let Bogie answer, “Private investigators, doll-face. Save that private eye malarkey for guys like Boston Blackie. We’re high class like Marlowe and Spade. We get twenty-five smackers a day plus expenses. And I love it when a dame like you visits the office.”

“Well, thank you, Mr. Bogart. Have you been busy?”

“Honest answer?” John said. “I did one case—followed a cheating husband and his girlfriend to a sleazy motel. Not exactly the French Connection.”

Bettye smiled before asking a question, the answer to which would change our lives for the next couple of weeks. “How would you like to work for me? I’m ready to put you two on the payroll and let you use those Special Investigator badges I gave you when I became the official interim sheriff of Blount County.”

John jumped in promptly. “Yes, ma’am. I could use the money.”

I played hard-to-get. “What’s it all about, sweetheart? Come on. Spill the beans. I’m no sap. What am I gettin’ involved in for my twenty-five bucks?”

“Will you stop with that 1940’s act?”

“If I must.”

“Good. This should be right up your alley. And you get a lot more than twenty-five dollars a day.”

She took a moment to reactivate a smile I took in with my eyes, but felt all the way down to my shoes. I have problems leaving my hardboiled gumshoe character behind.

“Stanley got a missin’ person case in Prospect that he passed off to us because he’s goin’ to be in Los Angeles for at least three weeks,” she said. “His grandmother died. His family would like help handlin’ her affairs, and Prospect PD is shorthanded now that we all left. I’m low on personnel, too, what with vacations still goin’ strong and a couple of complicated cases that are keepin’ CID busy.”

“I like missing persons cases,” John said. “The Boss does, too.”

“John, I’ve asked you to stop calling me that. But you’re right. I like MP cases. Always have.”

“Ya know, Sheriff, the Boss, uh, Sam, worked missing persons cases when he first got to be a detective back in New York. He started out in Juvenile, but didn’t last long there.” John lowered his voice and looked around as if he was afraid some nonexistent person might hear him. “He told me MP cases were easy because you didn’t have to worry about Miranda or any of that stuff. He’d dangle someone out a window or hang them off a pier to get information about the missing kid.”

Bettye looked at me as if she just learned I enjoyed pulling the wings off dragonflies. “Sam Jenkins, I will not allow you to dangle or hang or otherwise physically abuse some witness while you’re investigatin’ for me. Is that clear?”

“Yikes,” I said. “Has she gotten tough or what? John, there’s no doubt who’s the new boss in town.”

“Oh, stop,” she said.

“Okay. When are you going to tell me about the case? I need to know a few things before we jump into this.”

Bettye smiled. “I’ll tell you all about it if you take me to lunch.”

“I’ll bet you’ve got an expense account, don’t you?”

“Matter of fact, I do.”

“Wow, a pretty woman with an expense account. I’d marry you if your father owned a liquor store. Let’s go someplace pricey.”

“Yeah, Sheriff, I mean, Boss,” John said, “I can call you that, right?”

“Of course you can, John,” Bettye said.

He finished with, “Where we going?”

“Not we, John,” I said. “You have to write up your keyhole peeping case for the offended woman, and then you’ve got those four boxes of crap you want to hang on the walls to deal with. I’m gonna take my blonde lady friend here and buy her a glass of cheap white wine before she picks up the tab for our expensive lunch. I’ll come back and tell you why she wants to hire us.”

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FIND ALL THE SAM JENKINS MYSTERIES and other good books all in one place.

Nov 27, 2018 by

Look to BOOKS RADAR for novels and collections from best selling writers and INDIE authors alike.

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A BLEAK PROSPECT awarded 98 out of 100 possible points.

Jul 26, 2018 by is a site that lists and endorses juried books by independent authors and writers traditionally published by small presses. Recently they reviewed A BLEAK PROSPECT (Sam Jenkins mystery #8) and awarded it 98 out of a possible 100 points. Please take a look at what they said about the book…
Published by Melange Books, LLC in April 2018.

Cover Design Score: 10
The cover for this book is good. The darkness it totally appropriate to its genre and adds effect to the ‘darkness’ of the subject matter.
The background is good, and the girl is placed well as the obvious ‘next’ victim. The run in her stocking highlights the sadness of the situation.
The typography is good and lends itself well to the cover of a mystery. I believe it will appeal to anyone looking for a book in this genre.

Book Blurb Score: 10
Blurb is good for this book. It pulled me right in. It shares just enough of the story to make the reader want to know more without giving away too much.

Formatting Score: 10
This book is well formatted.
Front matter is placed correctly.
Body of text is good size. Margins are good.
Chapter headings are good. Spacing is good.

Grammar & Spelling Score: 8
Grammar and spelling are good in this book. I found no serious mistakes.
Some writers and publishers still observe the old rules for conjunctions at the beginning of sentences being a no-no, so I’ve listed them for reference below:

Author’s Note: The many items listed were all contained within dialogue. I’ve deleted the specific lines because not many people will care to read them all, and it’s my contention that rarely do real people use perfect grammar or sentence structure while speaking. I only write ’em as I hear ’em. However, I left the message above, because it was an issue that the critic stated in his/her critique. If you wish to see exactly what was mentioned, you may at

Sentence structure issue:
Chapter One: “ The last previous body showed up a hundred yards east…” Sentence doesn’t need both words “last previous”. One or the other would suffice since they both mean the same thing in this instance.
Author’s note: Oops.

Plot & Structure Score: 10
Plot and structure are good in this story. The plot keeps you riveted all the way through, and it’s structured so that each new chapter brings just a little more information to the table. Holds the readers attention very well.
I love how the story uses technology to help solve the crime. For instance, when they used the victims cellphone to call the killers cellphone (using his false-name ID), to prove it belonged to the killer in the first place.

Character Development Score: 10
The character development in this story is good. The characters interact well together and even though there are constantly new characters being introduced during the course of the investigation, it’s never hard to keep up with each one.
I love the description of character “Leary”. “Whenever Leary and his boys showed up, you smelled two things: his cigar and a rat.”

Originality Score: 10
At first I thought it might be reminiscent of the “Jack the Ripper” story, but it does have its own originality in spite of the initial similarities in the description.
Good, original mystery and a surprising (and pleasing) amount of humor throughout the book.

Pacing Score: 10
The pacing in this book is great, right from the beginning, and it’s fast paced all the way to the end. Good ending.

Use of Language Score: 10
Vivid. Scenes are so well described you could almost be there. The use of language is great in this book. Uses the language of the day and is easy to understand.

Overall Readability Score: 10
Overall readability of this book is great. It’s a page turner! Hard to put down. You find yourself re-arranging your day so that you can come back to this book.

This book received a critic’s score of 98 out of 100 possible points.

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A Bleak Prospect

Apr 25, 2018 by

A Bleak Prospect

A serial killer dubbed The Riverside Strangler by the Knoxville press corps has murdered eight Internet prostitutes in East Tennessee, the most recent found floating in Prospect’s Crystal Creek.

Chief Sam Jenkins joins a task force led by the county’s chief deputy, Ryan Leary, a cop known for his flamboyant police work and questionable methods.

When investigators hit a stone wall in the case, the killer strikes again—or was it a copycat? The type of victim and location follow the Strangler’s pattern, but some details are significantly different.

During the investigation, Leary is charged in a bizarre and seemingly unrelated case of police brutality and relieved of duty. Sam is faced with assuming command of the task force or turning over responsibility to the FBI.

The outcome of the case and subsequent actions taken by the Prospect City Council affect everyone at Sam’s police department and suggest that life there will never be the same.


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Police officers who work in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains occasionally require equipment not often needed by cops in cities or semi-urban neighborhoods.

Crime scene investigator Jackie Shuman and I were standing waist deep in the briskly moving waters of Crystal Creek wearing our police issue rubber waders.

Deputy Medical Examiner Morris Rappaport, his assistant, Earl W. Ogle, four other police officers, and a partially controlled crowd of tourists stood on the bank as Jackie and I approached the fallen tree that snagged a very dead body as it floated downstream, adjacent to the Creekside RV Park in Prospect, Tennessee.

“Go easy when you remove her from those branches, Sam,” Morris said.

“If she’s been underwater for a few days, you might get surprised.”

From the color of the corpse, it seemed like Morris was giving us sound advice. The once light-skinned female, now only partially clothed, looked roughly the color of a blue Italian plum.

“Jackie, block the moving water with your body,” I said. “It’s forcing her into the tangle. I’ll see if I can free her arm from this branch.”

“Times like these, I ask m’self why I didn’t volunteer fer the traffic division.”

I understood his complaint but ignored it. “Okay, go slow, and pull the branch down while I lift the arm.”

“Oh, Lord have mercy.”

It took us almost ten minutes of finessing the body out of the gnarled branches of the dead sweet gum before we could float her to a spot clear of debris. Jackie’s partner, David Sparks, met us on dry land with an aluminum-framed rescue litter. Once we maneuvered the body and secured it onto the litter, we pushed, while Sergeant Stan Rose and Officer Junior Huskey pulled her onto the grassy shore.

Several spectators appeared to be getting more curious and began inching their way closer to the action, craning their necks for a better look.

“Junior,” I said, “Help Johnny keep the gawkers back.”

“Glad to, boss.”

Stanley covered the body with a yellow disposable blanket as the doctor set up his workspace.

To Shuman and Sparks, I said, “Get your stakes out, and cordon off the area.” To Stan Rose, “I think you three can move that herd back toward the parking area. Let’s give Mo and Earl a little privacy.”

“Piece o’ cake,” Stanley said.

All three went about their business.

I stood over the body as Morris and Earl attempted to gain a little preliminary information and prepare her for a trip to the morgue and her post-mortem examination.

“Jesus Christ,” I said, “I count twenty-three stab wounds to the torso alone.”

“Look at the bruises across the carotid arteries,” Mo said. “Strangled.

That either killed her or rendered her unconscious. I’m only guessing about these wounds, but I think the killer wanted to get air out of the stomach and lungs, so she’d sink.”

“Cold and crafty bastard. Only it didn’t work. This is a pretty shallow body of water to think she’d make it down to Davy Jones’ locker.” Morris nodded. “After the autopsy I should know if there was any forcible sex.”

“That leather miniskirt and one remaining knee-high boot might indicate she worked in the sex trade.” I shrugged. “Or she just liked to look the part.”

“I’ll let you know what I find, Samilah. But offhand, I’ll bet you’ve just joined the lucky investigators looking for the Riverside Strangler.”

I shook my head and blew out a large volume of air. “Just what we need in beautiful downtown Prospect.”

Earl zipped up the black vinyl body bag.

Morris looked up at me but spoke to the corpse. “Welcome to the peaceful side of the Smokies, young lady.”

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Graceland on Wheels Anthology

Jan 28, 2018 by

Graceland on Wheels Anthology

Graceland On Wheels and Other Mysteries by Wayne ZurlA collection of six crime stories that take you on a trip through the more off-beat regions of law enforcement.

Follow Prospect, Tennessee’s Police Chief Sam Jenkins as he meets Gypsy conmen and a beautiful fortune teller in GYPSIES, TRAMPS & THIEVES, a gun show hustler and his right-wing militia cronies in HEAVEN’S GATE and a collection of pool hustlers competing for enough prize money they’d kill for in ALVIS IS IN THE BUILDING. A Chinese restaurant owner loses a little finger and feels the grip of vicious thugs from a Malaysian triad in THE SWAN TATTOO. The murder of an Elvis impersonator for a few bits of gold takes you on board GRACELAND ON WHEELS, and in NOTHING FITZ, an unlikely coalition of crooks on a National Guard air base are responsible for a brutal murder.

For more in-depth summaries of each novelette, visit the Novelette section of this site.

Read An Excerpt


Garland Humphries awoke with a bucket of composted cow manure in his mouth—or so he thought. When he raised his head, bolts of lightning flashed before his eyes, and a mule kicked him in the forehead.

Using the strength of three men to open his eyelids, Garland saw dried vomit on his white jumpsuit. Fearing what it would cost to clean the sequined leather garment, he began to shake his head and received another kick from that troublesome mule. The smell of his breath reminded him of the stench in a cesspool. He needed to wash the putrid taste from his mouth and gingerly attempted to sit up.

Swinging his legs off the wide mattress felt like he just cleared a high hurdle. But when he stood, an image of the Milky Way covered his field of vision and caused him to sit quickly. Garland sucked in a large volume of air, attempting to stop the spinning sensation, and after a few seconds, he again tried to stand. That time he made it. In a few moments, a flicker of confidence radiated from his head, through his body and down into his legs. He took a step, then another and felt the all too familiar sensation of his brain being too big for his skull.

He decided to look for a bottle of aspirin, but really wanted a glass of Jack Daniels to clear his head. When he reached the doorway of the bedroom in his big RV, he looked down the narrow hallway toward the little kitchen, the dining and sitting areas and finally the driver’s and passenger’s seats and the door. The hall between him and the wide-open spaces looked like a tunnel, with walls no farther apart than the width of his shoulders.

The kitchen was no more than fifteen feet away, but it seemed like a hundred yards, and he began to feel claustrophobic. The sides of the tunnel began to pulsate. Garland saw stars again. Bile collected in his mouth, and nausea overtook him. Garland Humphries needed a toilet or a bucket—fast.

He ricocheted off the walls and the first door he found opened into the combination toilet closet and shower. Garland dropped to his knees, hugged the commode and lost the contents of his stomach in two great heaves. Unable to move for what seemed like an eternity, he mustered the strength to push himself upright, turn and use the sink as a crutch. He scooped up hands full of water to rinse his mouth and splash on his cheeks. When he stood, Garland couldn’t focus on the pathetic drunk staring back at him from the small mirror and opened the medicine cabinet looking for a bottle of mouthwash. The childproof cap caused major problems, but finally he took a drink, rinsed and spat into the sink. That accomplished, he grabbed a bottle of aspirin, cursed the cap, opened it with his teeth and swallowed half a dozen.

Leaving the toilet and sink as they were, Garland moved toward the door of the RV and opened a portal to fresh air and the outside world. As most drunks would, he exaggerated a careful descent of the two steps and, without falling, found himself on solid ground. The noise of the slamming door erupted inside his head.

“Hello, Garland. Y’all don’t look so good.”

Humphries couldn’t see who had spoken, tried to look through the foggy darkness, but only saw a shadow approaching. It was the last thing he ever saw.

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