REVIEWS

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Killer Eulogy
Killer Eulogy and Other Stories

by Warren Bull


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PDF: $2.09

Reviewer: Sammy at Open Book Society - Rating: 5 Stars


What a perfect little gem. The writing was excellent. The stories were so unexpected with each ending different and there was no way of knowing which direction it would go.

This is a super fast read, but with every short story completely unique and well thought out. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every story.

I highly recommend this book for mature young adults and adults who enjoy something different, at times thought provoking, with humor, mystery and horror all rolled up in well written short stories.

I loved it.

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Reviewer: Astilbe, www.longandshortreviews.com - Rating: 3.5 Stars


One definition of noir is “no happy endings.” In this short story collection by award-winning author, Warren Bull, don’t expect any last-minute reprieves – it isn’t going to happen. Dark desires spiral inexorably down toward disaster. Bad choices lead to dangerous consequences, and a sucker never gets an even break.

A clergyman chosen to speak on behalf of the dead is accused of murder. An author trying to make a name for herself attracts the attention of a stalker. A police detective investigating a series of seemingly unrelated murders finds an appalling and very personal link between the crimes.

How fast can karma run? Is blind justice always a good thing?

This collection is best summed up by this quote from it: “You never actually complete a story. You just stop writing.” What intrigued me the most about these stories is how many twists and turns are packed into each one and how much I wished I could read more about certain characters.

Read the rest of the review

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Heartland
Heartland

by Warren Bull


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HEARTLAND was one of five finalists out of nearly a thousand entries in the 2010 Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest sponsored by the Gotham Writers Workshop.


“Heartland offers a wealth of exceptionally well-drawn characters, demonstrating that Warren Bull is a most talented storyteller.”

— Chris Roerden, author of award-winning books for writers.


4/07/12: Today's featured Book is Heartland by Warren Bull
Why I chose this book:
This is a good historical (pre-Civil War) YA novel involving a 16-year-old. It goes back and forth between present and past. It is a good coming of age story

—Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville.

“Part rip-roaring adventure, part heartfelt coming-of-age tale, Heartland is every bit a page turner. Warren Bull masterfully paints the prairie life and harrowing conflict of 1850s Bleeding Kansas, and weaves it seamlessly into a modern-day mystery. I was caught up from the first page and couldn't put it down till I finished.”

— L.D. Harkrader, Award-winning author of Airball: My Life in Briefs

Praise for Heartland

Warren Bull, the author of Heartland, is a master at creating suspense and in taking readers to another time and place as I’ve learned from his previous books. His newest book Heartland is part adventure and mystery, part historical fiction and part coming-of-age novel. I was captivated from the beginning; I didn’t want to put it down and yet I was sorry for it to end. It’s obvious why Heartland was one of five finalists in the 2010 Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest sponsored by the Gotham Writers Workshop.

I first became acquainted with some of the characters in Heartland when I read the story “Beecher’s Bibles” in Murder, Manhattan Style. I was quickly pulled into the time of the story, the 1850s and Bleeding Kansas. I was drawn to the clever children who used their ingenuity as well as their knowledge of the “Beecher Bible,” a new percussion rifle, to save their father and each other.

I was delighted to learn that this story had become the 1st chapter in Heartland, the story of 16-year-old Tom Allen living in present day Manhattan, Kansas. Tom is already striving to cope with a concerned stepfather and a distant and disinterested father when his beloved grandmother has a stroke and his life becomes even more complicated.

At his grandmother’s request Tom’s mother gives him the keys to a trunk and a cedar chest in his grandmother’s attic. Grandma tells Tom that she wants him to meet Amy, Joshua, Sarah and Benjamin. In the chest Tom and his friend Pat find letters that are over one hundred years old, telling about diaries from the 1850s written by ancestors who traveled to Kansas Territory in support of abolition. They suffered conflicts and dangers in Bleeding Kansas and later in the Civil War while working to combine two families shattered by tragedy. Tom and his friend become fascinated with such a personal view of the past as they realize that kindness, courage and honor are lasting values for any time period.

Heartland is a skillful blending of past and present and the ways in which we can all learn from family and friends as we navigate the difficulties of our own lives. I highly recommend it.

— Helma Hawkins, Director of Children’s Services, Kansas City Public Library


Warren Bull's YA novel, Heartland, has a foot in each of two worlds. The modern world where Tom, sixteen, tries to come to grips with a father who doesn't care about him any longer, a stepfather who cares too much what Tom does, and a beloved grandmother who's been hospitalized with a stroke, melds through a set of old family letters with the world of his teenage ancestors in "Bleeding Kansas," torn by violence in the lead-up to the Civil War. Bull's history is well-researched and well-presented with clarity and style, and his settings, past and present, are realistically rendered, but what makes this book a real standout is his ability to bring to life his teenage characters in both the nineteenth and the twenty-first centuries. He has a genuine feel for the thoughts and conversation of teens in both time periods. Though marketed as a YA novel, this book can be enjoyed by adults with a taste for the historical, as well.

— Linda L. Rodriguez, Winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel EVERY LAST SECRET


Heartland was reviewed by the staff at Helen C. White Library’s "Cooperative Book Center" (University of Wisconsin, Madison.) "When the present seems lost, the past can bring realities into view. Heartland follows Tom Allen, a young man whose home life seems to be falling apart. Looking into his family’s past he learns much, and brings what he learns to the table in the modern day. Heartland is a fine read about coming of age, highly recommended.”

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Murder Manhattan Style
Murder Manhattan Style

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Paperback: $14.00

Ebook: $3.49


Warren Bull is a short story master, and this collection shows him at his best with quick stories told in crisp, clear prose. There's variety, drama, history, humor, pathos, compassion, and even Shakespeare here, along with surprising and satisfying endings to every story.

— Nancy Pickard, New York Times Bestselling Author

Praise for Murder Manhattan Style

In this collection, Warren Bull takes his readers across the American landscape with stories of justice and injustice, truth and speculation; and humor and noir. The Manhattan in the title sometimes refers to the suave part of New York and sometimes to its prairie twin in Kansas. The stories are equally diverse. Bull writes tales of children outwitting their elders in the name of what’s right in turbulent Bleeding Kansas; of card sharks, clever dames and tough guys out on the town in the flush days of post-World War II; of an anguished husband and another furious father thwarted while seeking revenge; and a crime writer who really can’t handle rejection. Bull proposes intriguing questions—What if the ghost of Hamlet’s father wasn’t an apparition after all?—and moral ones—At what point is personal danger more tolerable than the loss of human dignity? Warren Bull is a thoughtful, gifted writer who blends history, language, pathos and a fine wit to tell terrific stories.

— Ramona DeFelice Long, author and independent editor

Murder Manhattan Style by Warren Bull is a collage of well-written stories as different as their settings, ranging from the Manhattan in Kansas to the town of the same name in New York with whistle stops along the way. Characters as diverse as a young brother and sister encountering crime and prejudice in 1850’s Middle America, tough-talking gumshoes of the 1930’s and 40’s Big Apple, to some who practice crime in the present day. Even a delightful homage visit with guys and dolls in Damon Runyon mode, those lovable characters who begin each day with the racing form and end it with whatever scheme looks profitable.

Wherever and whenever these well-drawn characters play out their stories, there’s more to savor than what they do and say. Underlying each engaging tale is a glimpse of what’s going on in their minds and how they mentally process what’s going on around them. It takes a practicing psychologist to relate that element so sharply and, fortunately for readers of these stories, that’s precisely what Warren Bull happens to be when he’s not writing fiction.

Highly recommended morsels for when you want to spice up your reading diet with variety.

— Earl Staggs, Derringer Award winning author and author of Memory of a Murder

"Witty, charming, and clever, Warren Bull’s stories capture perfectly the plains of Manhattan, Kansas, the mean streets of Manhattan, New York, and everything in between. His characters sparkle with humor and smarts."

— Lisa Harkrader, author of Nocturne, a YA fantasy, William Allen White Award winner for Airball: My Life in Briefs

Warren Bull’s Murder Manhattan Style

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve always written about novels before now.

But when I read Warren Bull’s short story collection, MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE, not long ago, I saw the chance to study how a writer develops his fiction skills over time without my having to read a bunch of books. Besides that, the fifteen stories present a tasty sampling of mystery genres.

The collection starts with “Beecher’s Bibles,” “Kansas Justice,” and “Butterfly Milkweed.” All three unfold in first person point of view, but from the perspective of a different member of the same family, the Millers, who lived near Manhattan, Kansas, not long before the Civil War. The first generates considerable suspense when two thugs capture Joshua, the narrator, only twelve, and his stepsister Amy and lie in wait for Joshua’s father. The kids trick the thugs and all ends well. The second is narrated by Amy. These two stories are straight-forward narratives, plot-oriented, and rest firmly on facts as we expect from historical mysteries.

But the third made me sit up and pay attention from the start with the narrator, Mr. Miller, caught in a deadly trap. It hooked me so well that I happily followed the narrator back in time in a well-executed flashback to discover how he hoodwinked the bank robbers who tried to kill him. At the end, the narrator returns us to the present scene and thus completes the frame in this skillfully structured story.

The next three stories, all set in Manhattan, New York, in 1938, are written in the spirit of Damon Runyon. “One Sweet Scam,” “Java Judy,” and “A Detective’s Romance” are very short and very tight. You can see Warren having fun practicing the set-up and pay-off in just a few words. But he’s also playing with voice and getting better at characterizing through it. Here’s a quick quotation from near the start of “Java Judy.” “A doll walks in who looks familiar. I puzzle my noodle until the penny drops.” Isn’t that fun? Plus, the voice clearly evokes the time, place, and Damon Runyon.

The next story, “A Detective’s Romance,” is the only one of the entire collection presented in third person, well chosen because this point of view gives the reader distance from the protagonist and gets the reader involved in figuring the mystery out.

Next we come to “The Wrong Man,” the first in a series of noir detective stories, set in 1947/48. Here Warren shows many of the skills he’s gained. This story has a frame around the main story in the past. It’s short. It’s tight. It’s got a surprise ending, neatly presented.

And the narrative voice rings true. Just look at the first sentence of the story. “The bulls shoved me through the precinct doors and double-timed me down the hall into the interrogation room.” “Bulls” is the right word for cops at this time. The verbs “shoved” and “double-timed” move us right into the story and down that hall so fast we can practically feel it. Also the dialogue in some of the early stories seems stiff, but here it’s snappy. For instance, one of the bulls calls the narrator a runt and another observes that if the narrator “sang,” that is, confessed, he’d sound “like one of the Andrews sisters.”

The next story, “Funeral Games,” another example of noir, is among other things a meditation on war and mortality. The narrator, the title, and the story itself all contribute to the theme of honoring those who’ve served their country.

I’ll leave the rest of the stories for you to discover on your own, except for the last one, “A Lady of Quality,” winner of the Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Authors Guild. Quite rightly, too, as this is a beautifully written story. Like most of the stories in MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE, it’s written in first person and the narrator reaches out and grabs us with her first words: “Listen here.” She commands our attention from the start and holds it in this compelling, yet subtle story of suspense.

As defined by Carolyn Wheat in HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION, suspense revolves around a crime that unfolds before our eyes instead of a crime already committed at the start, like more traditional detective fiction. Will the narrator Lizzie, a young black woman in the 1960’s, escape from the velvet-gloved hand of steel of Mrs. Edwards, the white gentlewoman, who’s very aware of her position in the society of a southern town? Will Lizzie even see the trap in time?

Read “A Lady of Quality” and find out. I will tell you, in closing, that this last story shows a clear shift from plot-driven fiction in the earlier stories to character-driven fiction and Warren wrote it with an impeccable grasp of history, great sensitivity to the diction of the narrator, and powerful insight into, as William Faulkner said in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, “the human heart in conflict with itself.”

NEXT TIME, on May 26: Louise Penny’s BURY YOUR DEAD. Meanwhile, happy reading & writing, Juliet

— Posted on May 12, 2011 by Juliet Kincaid

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"From the hilltop I can see rolling green hills and a clear unlimited horizon. The prairie flowers have erupted into crimson, yellow, orange and blue. They sweeten the air. I smell smoke from the fire and the sweat of horses."

Murder Manhattan Style Reviewed by Sarah Hilary

A great friend of mine, playwright and Hollywood screenwriter, was fond of giving this advice to aspiring writers: "Keep the mythic distance!" By which it was generally assumed that he meant never allow the viewer or reader to get close enough, to screen or page, to spy processes or flaws which might show up the finished product as anything less than epic.

Warren Bull is happy to show us these processes (and occasionally flaws) between thought and page, first draft and last, unpublished and published prose. At the end of each story in his collection, he footnotes how it came about, or what its fate was at the hands of a precarious small press publishing industry (one story was accepted for an anthology that was subsequently "scrapped due to finances"). I was torn between admiring his candour and wishing he’d not revealed so much of his craft. I wanted to believe in the storyteller’s magic by which he recreates scenes from 1850s mid-America, with its cowboys and Indians, or New York in the 1930s.

There are stories here that transport the reader, perhaps because Bull is a psychologist and effortlessly taps into the minds and voices of his characters. More than one story is written convincingly from the perspective of a young girl. In A Lady of Quality, the heroine is African-American, called from the cotton fields to work as a servant in a white household. Bull writes her voice so authentically that it’s almost a pity there aren’t more stories told by this narrator in the collection.

Diversity is another of his talents. Bull takes us from "Bleeding Kansas" in 1858 to a modern day Manhattan ghetto where justice is dealt out with equal brutality. There are upbeat, funny stories. There are downbeat, noir stories. Don’t be fooled by the shlocky cover (not the first time a short story collection will be ill-served by its publisher’s cover choice, and probably not the last), these stories cover distances and time, and mood, without losing a beat.

One or two stories suffer from odd pacing, ending too abruptly or moving too fast during sections which should unravel more intricately. Locard’s Principle feels as if it’s an exploratory outline for a novel, rather than a short story. But Bull is a master at the opening paragraph; there isn’t one here that doesn’t grab you by the throat. Acknowledging Funeral Games as darker than his average story, Bull fails to point out it’s also one of his very best, opening with a corpse and progressing as smoothly as a Raymond Chandler tale, through a sequence of excellent surprises to a satisfying denouement. Heidegger’s Cat is another example of Bull at his best, its political subtext as interesting as its pin-sharp, real-time action.

While it was interesting, in one sense, to read Bull’s footnotes to the stories, I’d suggest he drops them from any future collection; they seem amateurish, while the stories themselves are anything but. Keep the mythic distance, Warren!

— Susan Hilary won the Sense Creative Award in 2010, and the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize in 2008. Her fiction appears in The Fish Anthology, Smokelong Quarterly, The Best of Every Day Fiction I, II and III, and in the Crime Writers' Association anthology, MO Crimes of Practice. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2009 and Highly Commended in the Sean O’Faolain short story competition 2010. Sarah is currently working on a novel. He agent is Jane Gregory.

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Abraham Lincoln for the Defense (e-book cover)
Abraham Lincoln for the Defense

by Warren Bull (April 25, 2010)


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Ebook: $2.99


Young Abraham Lincoln had to defend against a unique murder charge. One day the Trailor brothers and a friend arrived in Springfield, Illinois. The next day the brothers left alone. With Lincoln away rumors spread like a wildfire, the brothers fell out and a lynch mob stalked the streets of the city. Lincoln returned to find people set on a double hanging. Standing between the brothers and the hangman’s noose was Abraham Lincoln for the defense.


In paperback the novel garnered six five-star reviews on Amazon.com. It is based on an actual murder trial which so intrigued Lincoln that he was still writing about it five years later. Resolution of the case solved one mystery, but it created a greater question that, to this day, remains unanswered. The novel introduces Lincoln as a young attorney developing into the man who will become the great emancipator, a martyred president and one of the most beloved figures in American history.

In the immensely readable "Abraham Lincoln for the Defense" by psychologist Warren Bull, one of Lincoln's most memorable trials is brought to life in this fictional novel based on real-life people and events. When three visitors to Springfield arrive in 1841, and one disappears, the remaining two turn on each other to create a trial that ignited the city and kept Lincoln contemplating its results even years later.

University of Illinois Alumni Magazine July/August 2005.

"Amazing! It is like author Warren Bull was sitting at the defense table along side Abraham Lincoln."

— Dorothy Phoenix, retired librarian.

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Back Story: Writing Lincoln’s Mystery (May 1, 2006)

When I wrote my first novel, Abraham Lincoln for the Defense (PublishAmerica 2003) I found that I was writing about Lincoln and writing with him too. After all, I discovered the Trailor murder case when I read about it in Lincoln’s Collected Works, Rutgers University, 1953-55. Lincoln wrote a letter to his best friend shortly after the end of the trial. He laid out the characters, the crime scene, the timeline, the physical evidence, the course of the trial and the verdict. He mentioned an interesting incident for the back story and used humor that was too good to pass up. I eventually used all of that in my novel. When I read about the events, I thought they would make a great mystery except that at that time Lincoln could not say (he did not yet know) who had done what to whom. Many questions were unanswered. The trial ended with one side swearing that bloody murder had been committed and the other side swearing that it had not. Reluctantly, I concluded that there was not enough information available to write a coherent novel, but Lincoln was not done yet.

I continued to read Lincoln’s collected writings and he next called my attention to the case in a newspaper editorial about the trial that he wrote five years later. By that time, he was able to resolve some of the mysteries unsolved at the end of the trial. He let me know who did what to whom but some questions remained unanswered. The resolution of some mysteries created a greater mystery than before. Lincoln thoughtfully listed all the issues that had not been explained, which I realized would have to be accounted for in a novel. Finally, he gave me advice about the novel by writing, “a writer of novels could bring the story to a more perfect climax.” Of course it was several years and a myriad of revisions before I managed to provide possible explanations for the issues and to invent an ending that tied up all the loose ends. I think Lincoln would approve. I certainly hope so. After all, it is his mystery.

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