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The Dead Certain Doubt: An Ed Earl Burch Novel

by Jim Nesbitt

March 13 – April 7, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


The Dead Certain Doubt by Jim Nesbitt

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. 💞

Book Details:

Genre: Hard-Boiled Crime Thriller
Published by: Spotted Mule Press
Publication Date: March 2023
Number of Pages: 260
ISBN: 978-0-9983294-5-1
Book Link: Amazon

Read an excerpt:


Watch your six, Sport Model.

A dead partner’s whispered warning. A triggered twitch of muscle memory and street cop reflexes. The split-second dive to the right. The graceless tuck and shoulder roll that slams and skids your ass across the greasy linoleum floor of a roadside tienda.

Left hand full of a Colt’s cold comfort. Hammer back. Eight Fat Boys in the mag. One in the pipe. Hardball .45 ACP and Flying Ashtrays. Find the source of that buckshot blast meant to blow your head into red mist, skull fragments, hair and brain matter.

Ignore the screams, shouts, clumping footfalls and Dios Mios of customers and clerks exiting rapido to safety. Smell the cordite but pay it no mind.

Ignore all that shattered bottle glass and the ketchup, mustard, mayo, salsa picante and salsa verde splattered across the floor, your jeans, your belt buckle and your best Nocona boots. A swirling mess of red, green, white and yellow that just doesn’t matter.

Find that shooter. Listen for the telltale shing-shing pumping more buckshot into the chamber. Pray he’s old school. Pray the shotgun isn’t a semi-automatic with the next round already in the pipe.


Answered prayer. The sound rises from the next aisle to his front left. The Colt tracks the echo, sights panning across the shelves facing him. Jarritos, Jumex, Sidral Mundet, Big Red, 7 Up. Spam, Underwood Deviled Ham, Starkist. Valvoline, Havoline, Pennzoil.<

A boot sole scrapes the linoleum. Front corner of the next aisle. Right behind the 10W30. Colt centers on the sound. Front blade splits a quart of Havoline. Blast five shots. A grunt, a groan and the clatter of dropped gun metal. Ears ring.

Quick crab crawl to the opposite corner.

Sneak a peek. Shooter on his knees. One hand covers his bloody gut. The other reaches for his pump shotgun.

Fuck you, old school. Three more blasts from the Colt. Squeeze the trigger like a lover until the slide locks back and smoke curls from the breech. One round cores a Third Eye in the shooter’s forehead.

Quema tu culo en el infierno, pendejo. No last rites. No absolution. Straight to the flames. Spit a sour green ball of phlegm on the floor.

Shuck the empty mag. Slap home a fresh one. Trip the slide. Shake out a Lucky and stick it on a dry lip.

Light the nail with a Zippo and a shaky hand. Drag the smoke down deep to smother the stench of gunsmoke and blood. Dial 911 on the black rotary phone next to the cash register and wait for the gaudy post-mortem show to start. No popcorn.

Give thanks to the whiskey gods you survived another gunfight. Thank those old reflexes, too. They’re the second cousins of doubt — the only thing you’re dead certain of.

*** *** *** ***

Dealer’s choice. Jacks or better to open. Check, raise, bluff or call in a round of liar’s poker with a lawdog Burch knew but hadn’t seen in almost a decade. Didn’t know if he could trust the man who held all the high cards. And the badge. Best to play it close to the vest.

“I see you still worship at the Church of John Browning. Bet you still follow the lessons they taught you at the Hollow-Point Charm School.”

Raise with a bluff and smartass bluster.

“Dance with who brung ya, Sheriff. And not much charm to this deal. Just a shitload of lead. Muchacho there tried to make me a headless horseman with some double-ought. I begged to differ and let Brother John’s best do my talking for me.”

“Old gun.” Call.

“Old man shootin’ it. Only gun I can hit anything with.” Re-raise.

“And you had to come all the way out to my county to prove you still could. Why the hell is that?”

Burch smiled but didn’t answer. A quiet fold. The sheriff was deeply annoyed but wasn’t ready to throw him in a jail cell. Yet.

Burch stood about five feet away from the shooter’s corpse, dripping ketchup, mustard and salsa on the tienda linoleum. Half-assed trying not to fuck up the sheriff’s crime scene while smoking another Lucky pacifier.

His eyes scanned the body, sprawled face first in a dark, spreading pool, left arm flexed out like it was plowing a path for a body that would never follow.

His brain automatically picked out and filed the details. Once a murder cop, always a murder cop. Gold badge or not.

Detail: The last hollow-point he fired blew out the back of the man’s skull. Filed.

Detail: A scorpion tattoo on the left forearm. Black ink only. Lines still sharp. Filed.

Detail: Shooter’s gun a Remington 870 pump. Twelve gauge with a sawed-off barrel. Common as rocks and sand in West Texas. Filed.

He studied the left side of the man’s face, the side that wasn’t marinating in blood and brain pulp.

Detail: Smooth bronze skin, left eye showing the eight-ball bulge. Detail: Lips locked back over a pearly white grimace. Silver cuff on the left earlobe. Maricón? Maybe.

Details and question filed. Nothing rose from his memory banks. Noted and filed.

His eyes returned to the gaping hole in the back of the man’s skull.

Gotta love them Flying Ashtrays. Did damage to a man. Hardball knocked him down and hollow-point chewed up his innards and cored out his skull. The Big Adios. One-way ticket. Paid in full.

The sheriff squatted on his boot heels near the dead man’s right hip, using the eraser end of a pencil to lift the bloody tail of a denim shirt to study an exit wound. A muttered oath. English or Spanish. Burch couldn’t tell.

More muttering. A wallet fished out of a back pocket with a hand gloved in latex. A glance at the driver’s license. A quick riffle through a thick sheaf of greenbacks.

Detail: Helluva lot of lettuce in that wallet. More than your average greaseball carries. Noted and filed.

Sheriff Sudden Doggett gave one shake of the head then pinned Burch with dark, angry eyes framed by the underside of a faded, stained and dented Resistol that might have been dark gray in its younger days.

“Why the fuck is it every time you cross the Cuervo County line you have to announce your presence by painting the walls red?”

“Only the second time I’ve visited your fair jurisdiction, Sheriff. And the first time was a few years back. Seven or was it eight?”

“Not long enough if you ask me. Why can’t you be like every other tourist passing through and keep trucking over the river for some bad tequila and cheap pussy?”

“Because I’m on a job. Was on my way to see you when this happened.”

“Well, fuck me runnin’. Worst news I’ve had all day. Fuckin’ angel of death is what you are. And my morgue’s already full. Last thing I need is another gun hand racking up body count.”

“Startin’ to sound like your old boss.”

“You can just take that talk and jam it straight up your ass, pendejo. Go clean yourself up some. You look like Ronald McDonald with that shit smeared all over you.”

“Good to see you again, too, Sheriff.”

“Bite my ass, Burch.”

Risky to poke a stick at Doggett with the thin hand he held. Might wind up in a jail cell for his trouble. But the reaction he got was worth it – genuine pissoff with no hesitation or trace of guilt. Told him he just might be dealing with a straight shooter. Hope so. We’ll see.

The lawman kept his eyes locked on Burch as he barked an order.

“Get this fuckhead out of my face before I run him in lookin’ just like the clown he is. Take him out back. Ruby’s got a garden hose out there. Let him use it and get cleaned up while I check out this mess. Leave his Colt on the counter.”

A blade-faced deputy with acne scars and the flattened nose of a bad boxer stepped up and grabbed him by the elbow. Burch shook his arm free, gave him a glare and walked toward the back door of the store.

Anger flushed out the shakes. He felt better, but not great. As good as it gets after killing a man.


Excerpt from The Dead Certain Doubt by Jim Nesbitt. Copyright 2023 by Jim Nesbitt. Reproduced with permission from Jim Nesbitt. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Jim Nesbitt

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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