OFF THE BOOKS by Dana King

OFF THE BOOKS Dana King   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~   GENRE:  Hard-boiled Private Investigator


Dana King


GENRE:  Hard-boiled Private Investigator 



OFF THE BOOKS Dana King   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~   GENRE:  Hard-boiled Private Investigator
Nick Forte has lost his detective agency and makes ends meet doing background checks and other paperwork. He pays for everything else through jobs he takes for cash and without any written contract. What starts out as a simple investigation into a traffic accident exposes Forte to people who have truly lost everything and have no viable hope of reclaiming their lives. That doesn’t sit well with Forte, leading him and his friend Goose Satterwhite to take action that ends more violently than anyone expected. 

“The return of Chicago private detective Nick Forte, the tough protagonist of two Shamus Award-nominated novels, is well worth the wait. Nick’s latest escapade Off The Books—the first in nearly six years—will surely earn additional praise for the acclaimed series.”

-J.L . Abramo, Shamus Award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Chan. 

"Nick Forte reminds me of Robert B. Parker's Spenser: a PI with a finely tuned sense of justice who doesn't take anyone's s***. Any fan of hardboiled detective fiction is in for a helluva ride."

--Chris Rhatigan, former publisher of All Due Respect Books 



I told Jason Worthington I’d find his daughter in a week. I surfed the internet and searched flophouses, cathouses, bar rooms, pool rooms, jails, hospitals, morgues, and SRO hotels. Found her in a pay-by-the-hour motel at 10:48 p.m. two days after her father and I spoke. 

Worthington would have preferred me to find her alive.

 Cindy’s body was warm, the spike still in her arm. She looked as if she’d fallen asleep waiting and didn’t hold my tardiness against me.

 I did what any real-life professional investigator would do, and what no fictional private eye would even consider. 

I called the police. 

The cops kept me at the scene half the night, at the station until dawn. They asked the same questions in both places and got the same answers.

 “Why were you there?” 

“Her father asked me to find her.” 

“Why was the father looking for her?” 

“My guess would be to keep what happened from happening. You’ll have to ask him yourself to be sure.”

 The usual bullshit.

 I called Worthington on my way out of the police station. Told him I had news but would prefer to deliver it in person. I didn’t suppose I needed to tell him anything after that, but it wouldn’t hurt to allow him time to prepare before I scarred the rest of his life.

 He answered the door already dressed for work. Navy suit, white shirt with French cuffs, gold links. His tie was blue with small designs, maybe horses gathered in a perfect four-square knot. Red suspenders. A suit coat hung from the newel post behind him. His forehead gleamed beneath a silvery hairline. His teeth were as white and straight as a Klan meeting.


I was asked to talk a little today about how I developed my plot, which is a timely question for me, as it has changed over time until I now have a process I feel quite comfortable with. 

Plot development is a very personal part of writing, maybe even as much as the voice. There are great writers who never know what’s going to happen on the next page until they type it. Others outline in gruesome detail. James Ellroy is famous for writing outlines that are sometimes longer than the book. 

I’m an outliner, but I’m not obsessive about it. I’ll write a sentence or two for each scene to describe what needs to happen. How it happens, and how I describe it, are game-time decisions. 

“But how do you develop the outline itself?” is the real question. Early on, I went through more iterations of each outline than I care to remember and used more dry-erase markers, note cards, Post-Its, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides, magnets, and pushpins to prop up Staples’ stock price single-handedly. The process can charitably be described as chaotic. Mostly I fooled around with the events and their order until I was tired of messing with them and decided it was time to write, or else. Or else what? Don’t ask. I can be hard on myself. 

I was at a Sleuthfest session where the speaker—I wish I could remember her name—showed a short YouTube video featuring South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about how they outline. (Don’t laugh. I’m serious.) They use a technique I call “Therefore and But” which is almost laughably simple but more effective than anything I’d tried in the past.

 Here's how it works: You have an opening situation, which can be anything that leads to “therefore.” For every “therefore” there is a “but,” which is followed by another “therefore,” and so on 

For example, in a grotesquely simplified form:

Nick Forte takes a case.


He investigates.


Things are not as his client told him.


Forte takes the investigation in an unexpected direction.


The client catches wise and pushes back.


Forte takes more direct (read: violent) action. 

And so on. 

The biggest benefit of “Therefore and But” is the creation of a plot where each event leads at least somewhat logically from what came before. Parker and Stone warn of the dangers of stories where “this happens and then that happens and then this happens,” as they can wander off almost anywhere, leaving the writer, and the reader, desperately searching for the thread that hold things together. 

Check out the video. It’s an eye-opener. 


AUTHOR Bio and Links: 

OFF THE BOOKS Dana King   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~   GENRE:  Hard-boiled Private Investigator
Off the Books is Dana King’s sixth Nick Forte private investigator novel. Two of the earlier books (A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window) received Shamus Award nominations from the Private Eye Writers of America. Dana also writes the Penns River series of police procedurals set in a small Western Pennsylvania town, as well as one standalone novel, Wild Bill, which is not a Western. His short fiction appears in numerous anthologies and websites. He is a frequent panellist at conferences and reads at Noirs at Bars from New York to North Carolina.



One Bite at a Time 






Dana King will award a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner.  


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  1. Good morning and thanks for having me! I'll check in throughout the day, so if anyone has questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll get back to you quick as I can.

    1. It was such a great pleasure to host your beautiful book in my website. What Inspired you to write this book, Dana?

    2. It had been six years since my previous Forte novel, He made an appearance in the most recent Penns River novel (THE SPREAD) which reminded me how much I enjoyed writing him and his cohorts. That led me to cast about for a suitable story, which The Beloved Spouse provided when she came across an article on human trafficking I had not seen. After that I was ready to go.

    3. Wow! Thank you for your kind response.

  2. The blurb and excerpt sound interesting.

    1. Thanks, marcy. The e-book is free on Kindle Unlimited. Give it a spin if you feel adventurous.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Rita. The excerpt is from the opening scene and gives a good idea of the voice throughout. Forte has more "misunderstandings" with the cops at the book goes on.

  4. I really like the cover and the excerpt.

    1. Thank you for your compliment.

    2. Thanks, Sherry. I will pass along your kind words to The Beloved Spouse, who did the cover.