The Dead Certain Doubt: An Ed Earl Burch Novel
by Jim Nesbitt
March 13 – April 7, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
Revenge, Guilt, Redemption & Gunsmoke
When Doubt Is Your Only Friend
Ed Earl Burch, a cashiered Dallas murder cop, is a private detective facing the relentless onslaught of age, bad choices, guilt and regret. Smart, tough, profane and reckless, he’s a survivor who relies on his own guts and savvy and expects no help or salvation from anybody.
But he’s also a man who longs for the sense of higher calling he felt when he carried a homicide detective’s gold shield. He seeks redemption and a chance to make amends to a dying old woman he abandoned decades ago when she needed him most.
When he sees her again, she has the same request — save her granddaughter from the vicious outlaws on her trail and bring her home for a final goodbye. Easier said than done because the granddaughter is a hardened hustler and gunrunner, hellbent on avenging a lover who got chopped up and stuffed into a barbecue smoker by cartel gunsels and a rival smuggler.
To fulfill the old woman’s last request, Burch heads back to the borderlands of West Texas on a mercy mission that plunges him into a violent world of smugglers, cartel killers, crooked lawmen, Bible-thumping hucksters, anti-government extremists and an old nemesis who wants to see him dead.
The odds are long and Burch has his doubts — about himself, the granddaughter, old friends and the elusive nature of grace from guilt. Truth be told, doubt is the only thing he’s dead certain of.
Grace Or A Desert Grave?
Praise for The Dead Certain Doubt:
“Gritty and tough with enough despicable West Texas hombres to fill a tour bus.”
~ Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron mysteries
“Rough days and harsh nights seem like paradise before it’s all over….”
~ Rod Davis, author of the Southern noir novels, South, America and East of Texas, West of Hell
“A no-holds-barred mission of revenge, redemption and righting wrong from the past….”
~ R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson mysteries
“The pace is swift, the action is raw and the characters are intense and visual.”
~ Carmen Amato, author of the Emilia Cruz and Galliano Club mystery series
“Ed Earl Burch will guide you through the last arroyo with wit, truly memorable dialogue and locations you’d like to visit…with a gun.”
~ John William Davis, author of Rainy Street Stories and Around the Corner
“The Dead Certain Doubt is a thrilling, lightning-paced, ferocious crime novel. Highly recommended!”
~ Rich Zahradnik, author of The Bone Records and Lights Out Summer, winner of the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Private Eye Novel
Inside the Author of The Dead Certain Doubt:
I’m so excited to share that Jim Nesbitt, author of The Dead Certain Doubt visited with me recently. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Years ago, a journalism buddy and novelist challenged me to write a novel and loaned me a spare Apple Macintosh to get started. I’ve always loved hard-boiled crime fiction, which I consider an American art form. I’m also an ex-journalist who came up in the era when long-format storytelling was the rage at newspapers and there was value placed on writers who could spin a tale with some style and a knowledge of how to use the devices of fiction to hook a reader and keep them hooked.
Given my love of the founding fathers of the hard-boiled genre — Hammett and Chandler — and writers who followed in their footsteps, such as the late and underappreciated James Crumley, it was inevitable that when I decided to meet my buddy’s challenge, I set my cap for writing a hard-boiled crime novel. I’m also a lapsed Baptist who comes from a long line of hillbilly storytellers, so it’s not surprising that my books have some biblical qualities — revenge and vengeance from the Old Testament, redemption from the New.
More than one author buddy has pointed out that though my novels are hard-boiled crime thrillers with noirish trappings, they also have the heart of a Western. And I think that’s correct — they’ve all got a strong streak of the modern-day West. Maybe I’ll drop the notion of Ed Earl being a Dallas PI and bring him to West Texas on a more permanent basis and write contemporary Westerns. Maybe I’ll reach back in time and write a classic Western.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Although I think The Dead Certain Doubt is the best Ed Earl Burch book yet, you always see holes in your story and regret a choice or two — usually AFTER the book is already in print. If I had a do-over, I might not have killed off Leighanna Burdette, a woman Ed Earl meets at a white supremacist ranch while working undercover. They’re instantly attracted to each other and have a fling that has Ed Earl falling half-way in love. She gets tortured and murdered by Aryan Brotherhood thugs who are running guns and drugs out of the ranch and want to track down and kill Ed Earl because they think he’s a cop. They’re half-right — he used to be a long time ago. He’s a PI now, trying to track down the wayward granddaughter of a dying old woman he turned his back on decades ago. On the other hand, her murder gives the local sheriff a reason to send a deputy who’s an ex-Ranger to scout that ranch and find out what’s really going on, setting the stage for a major action scene in the novel.
Who has impacted your life the most and in what way?
My kinfolk — my parents, my uncles and aunts, my cousins. We’re all North Carolina hillbilly stock with roots in the mountains around Asheville. Although my sister and me were born and grew up near Philadelphia, we weren’t Yankee-raised, as the old Southern saying goes. We were raised with a keen sense of family and place — and that place wasn’t Philly. It was the mountains around Asheville and little hamlets like Celo, Fairview, Big Ivy, Pensacola and Barnardsville. We come from a long line of hillbilly storytellers and were steeped in the stories of our parents, their siblings and their ancestors, like the great grandfather who was a circuit-riding preacher and another who was wounded at Chickamauga. And we spent a lot of summers with the country cousins, which made us markedly different than the kids we went to school with back in Philly. When I told this to a buddy of mine, James Lileks, he said: “You were an exile at birth.” That’s right as far as it goes, but that keen sense of family and place — knowing where you’re from and feeling alienation and loss because you’re not there — is shot through all of my novels. It’s also the reason I have a deep appreciation for the landscape where people are born and live, how it shapes them as they try to wrest a living from it. I was fascinated by that as a journalist, particularly when I discovered the harsh, rocky beauty of West Texas, the perfect place to set bloody tales of revenge and redemption. That’s why I try to create a vivid image of the land where my stories take place because setting is more than a backdrop — if you write it right, it becomes a character unto itself, one that helps define the other characters as much as dialogue and action.
What event in your life do you remember first when asked for a humorous story?
My mind drew a blank when I first read this question at the end of a very long day, almost like you were pointing a finger at me and saying, ‘be funny.’ Once I relaxed with four fingers of good bourbon, the stories crept out of the mental woodwork. I’ll tell one about my dear, departed mother, Helen.
Late in life, after my father died, she became quite the CSPAN junkie. I was working in Washington, D.C. at the time and was shocked to get phone calls from her asking about bills before Congress or obscure press conferences by think tanks and Cabinet officials. She was clearly paying attention and knew details and picked up some of the jargon.
During one phone call, she asked in a worried voice, “Son, do you think they’re ever going to pass that C.R. on the budget?” She was worried because that continuing resolution had a provision in it for Medicare or Social Security and wasn’t sure Congress would pass it.
This continued even after I left D.C. At one point, I started teasing her with a nickname — The Grey Panther, telling her she ought to join that group of elderly activists. Pretty quick, she told me she didn’t like that nickname.
I asked her why. “It makes me sound old.” She was in her mid-80s at the time.
“What color panther do you want to be?”
“I don’t know — red, yellow, blue, white — anything that doesn’t make me sound old.”
“How ’bout pink?”
“No. I’m not pink.”
“White panther it is, then.”
Eventually, we dropped the color reference and just started calling her The Panther. My nephews and me even came up with The Panther Theme Song. It has only one verse.
Oh, The Panther is a mighty cat,
A mighty cat is she
And if you feed her a sausage biscuit
What a happy cat she’ll be
Mom was a fiend for sausage biscuits at the Huddle House near her house, so the theme song had a touch of reality to it. When the nephews and I would surround her in the kitchen and sing it, this contradictory look would cross her face — one part secretly pleased her son and grandsons were showering her with attention, the other part annoyed we were calling her The Panther again and wanting to swat all of us.
We miss singing her that theme song.
Aww. Thanks so much for sharing that, Jim. It’s a wonderful memory of your mother and as someone who was also, southern raised and still has weekly family dinners, I greatly appreciate the love and humor in it. 💞
Genre: Hard-Boiled Crime Thriller
Published by: Spotted Mule Press
Publication Date: March 2023
Number of Pages: 260
Book Link: Amazon
Read an excerpt:
Jim Nesbitt is the award-winning author of four hard-boiled Texas crime thrillers that feature battered but relentless Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch — THE LAST SECOND CHANCE, a Silver Falchion finalist; THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER, an Underground Book Reviews “Top Pick”; and, his latest, THE BEST LOUSY CHOICE, winner of the best crime fiction category of the 2020 Independent Press Book Awards, the 2020 Silver Falchion award for best action and adventure novel from the Killer Nashville crime fiction conference and bronze medal winner in the best mystery/thriller e-book category of the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. His latest book is THE DEAD CERTAIN DOUBT, which was released in early March. Nesbitt was a journalist for more than 30 years, serving as a reporter, editor and roving national correspondent for newspapers and wire services in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, migrant field hands, neo-Nazis and nuns with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voice of the people who give life to a story. His stories have appeared in newspapers across the country and in magazines such as Cigar Aficionado and American Cowboy. He is a lapsed horseman, pilot, hunter and saloon sport with a keen appreciation for old guns, vintage cars and trucks, good cigars, aged whiskey and a well-told story. Nesbitt regularly reviews crime fiction and history on his blog, The Spotted Mule, and his author web site, as well as Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads. He now lives in Athens, Alabama.
To learn more, visit him at:
BookBub – @edearl56
Facebook – @edearlburchbooks
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