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Bank Roll Excerpt

Businesswoman in home office

The Day Max Stryker Hit Town--Again! 

It started out like any other day for Max (Maxine, but only to her mother) Stryker, a crime reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Then the news broke. She was listening to the morning news on TV as she rushed to get to work when they announced that the Knight Ridder chain of newspapers had been sold.
When she arrived at the office, the buzz was that their newspaper was going to go on the auction block, and a lot of the workers would be getting pink slips within days, maybe even hours.

With her notice in front of her, Max called her mother and told her that she was going to be forced to do what she had vowed would never happen: she was going home! Home to Willow Creek, Minnesota, where nothing exciting ever happened--until Max hit town again, just in time to hear that the bank president had been kidnapped!





(St. Paul Pioneer Press Headline, March 12, 2006)

Then the Fickle Finger of Fate Stepped In...
It was more than five years ago that I wrote Bank Roll: A Max Stryker Mystery. For some unexplainable reason, I pulled it out of the files in February, 2006, and decided to polish it up. I really didn't need a new series; I already have three of them going now!
I finished going through the ms. on a Sunday night. The following day, a Monday in March, 2006, the headlines in the local Grand Forks Herald declared "Knight Ridder Newspapers have all been sold." Ah, timing--it's everything. Just ask a comedian! Nothing is worse than a misplaced punch line!

So, the first Max Stryker Mystery, Bank Roll, was scheduled to  be released in April. Now I know how books like the ones on OJ Simpson and Scott Peterson got out on the market so fast! You just need the right subject--and the right time. Or I thought I did. But a funny thing happened on the way to the printer. The formatting got all goofed up, it got delayed--a lot--and as a result I ended up changing publishers. It won't be as timely as the OJ books were, but it is still a good book, and Max Stryker has a whole lot of other things in store for her down the road. Watch for it in 2007. By then Max will have figured out what she wants to do with the rest of her life.
Oh, and whoever said "Truth is stranger than fiction"--well, he was obviously right, even if it is a day late and a dollar short!
For an excerpt of the first chapter, click here.

A click on Shane will take you to his website

To me, a cover is as important as the story. People will pick up a book based on what it looks like. If the cover isn't fetching, they will never even get to the back cover blurb, much less the inside.
So, with a time crunch involved, how do you find the perfect cover? As fate, again, would have it, I had gotten acquainted with a wonderful woman, Joyce Anthony. She is a single mom, raising a brand-new teenage son, Shane (Foster). I had also corresponded via e-mail with Shane. You can see a bit more about him on my blog at,
I had mentioned Shane to Ivan (my other half) and when I said that I needed a cover--quickly--he suggested I see if Shane was interested in the job. So, I contacted Shane, explaining that I would like a very rustic looking cabin out in the woods, which was where Bill Crane, the kidnapped bank president, was taken. I also told him that it was late fall, with the first snowfall just happening.

So may I introduce you to Shane D. Foster, my latest cover artist. He is holding his artwork, done in pastels, that will become the cover of Bank Roll: A Max Stryker Mystery. While he put snow here and there, he left spots of green--like it would be after the first snow of the season. He also added the lake, which was a touch I really liked. I'm sure the hunters' retreat was by a lake, even if the book doesn't say so! Super Shane, you done good, kid! And I am proud to have been the first one who hired you. I hope others will follow suit. If any of you want to contact him, email me at or contact Shane directly through his mom, Joyce, at

And it's more than just a Bank Roll! Here's where she's headed. There is no doubt about it; life in Willow Creek changed forever the day Max Stryker came home!

A big businessman from Chicago is vacationing at a resort on Big Wolf Lake. He throws a big bash on his boat, inviting all the neighbors. He gets extremely drunk. One of the men--like all the others--figures he doesn’t belong, so he poisons him. However, he falls overboard. One woman finally comes forward to "clear her conscience," admitting that she saw the poison being slipped into his drink. She convinces everyone that it was really murder. The guilty man is taken to trial. Although no one wants to see him convicted, since he is a "local yokel" and the victim was an "intruder," the evidence seems conclusive. Just as the verdict is about to be read, the coroner comes rushing in to verify that he drowned before the poison got a chance to work and he is acquitted.


The daughter of an electrician from Big Bay, Mn. Is kidnapped. The family is new in town. They moved there to escape the dangers of big city life in Minneapolis. There seem to be no clues until Ralph, the old timer who did all the electrical work for years, notices that there seems to be an unusually large number of letters which turn up missing on the local neon signs. He calls Max Stryker in on the case and together, with Rick’s help on the computer, the missing letters when fed into it and figure out the message the letters spell out. They follow the clues, which lead them to the girl, who is found bound and gagged in an old deserted motel. Also there is a corpse of a man no one seems to be able to identify. The majority of the local residents believe that the victim’s father plotted the whole thing to get the ransom money, which he tries to get the town to help him raise, but Max is sure he truly loves his daughter and could never do anything so terrible. When he goes to trial, he is found guilty and sent to jail. As he is put into the sheriff’s car to be transported to Duluth, Max’s cat, Muffin, appears with the only piece of incriminating evidence that can clear the condemned: the written notes that reveal the whole plan in the very distinctive handwriting of the kidnapped victim’s real father, who had recently learned of his daughter’s existence.


Max Stryker decides to take a creative writing course at a small private college in Duluth, MN after a sorority house reports that their delivery boy from the pizza house has mysteriously disappeared.

One by one, more of the delivery boys continue to vanish. Rick Brown, Max’s sidekick, tries to convince her not to go there, but she is not to be dissuaded. In an effort to protect Max, Rick gets a job at the pizza house.

Missing persons reports are filed on each of them, finally bringing in the FBI agents who helped (?) solve the case in Max Stryker’s first escapade (BANK ROLL). To Max’s dismay, they are no better than they were several years ago when she first met them. Nor, they agree, is she any less arrogant and arbitrary than she was then.

Max is faced with a difficult decision when her father, who has a history of heart trouble, is once again in the hospital. It looks like this time is the end for dear old Bud, so the local people from Willow Creek hold a special election for chief of police and Max is the obvious choice. She has one week until she must return to Willow Creek to assume her duties there. She has to find out who has done away with the missing delivery boys, which now includes Rick Brown.

With time running out, she joins the sorority just in time to figure out who the real belle of the ball is.


Jenny Aspholm has come back to Willow Creek for the summer. A classmate of Max Stryker, she is the perfect example of the girl you love to hate. Voted most likely to succeed, most popular and most photogenic in their senior year, she is now a med student at the University of Miami, and she lets everyone know she has big plans for the future.

Jenny had worked in the meat department at the local Jack & Jill Grocery Store during high school, where all the other butchers were men. She almost didn’t get the job, but she convinced the owner that it was good practice for her career, as she would be cutting up human meat in the operating room after she finished her college.

Now, back on the scene, she arranges to meet the men from the meat department on a regular basis. Max and Rick Brown, her cohort, sense that there is something fishy in the meat department, but they aren’t sure what it is until head butcher Ralph Samson is found hanging in the walk-in freezer.

Max and Rick get busy on the investigation, against her father’s advice, convinced that Jenny is the guilty party. But, surprises are in store—or in the store—on every side.


When the Jessie Mine is reopened on the Mesabi Iron Range, a decayed body is found. Who is the victim? Why is he there? Was it an accident? Max Stryker and Rick are asked to find the truth. When it appears obvious that there was foul play involved, they have to find out who did it. Once the body is identified, the questions arise. Why didn’t anyone report him missing? Who really knew the loner who lay dead for over five years in the deserted mine? When the county officials think they have found the murderer, a couple of young kids who were seen going in and out of the mine on a regular basis, Max and Rick have to prove that they didn’t have any part in it. In fact, they claim they didn’t even know the body was there. The only way to clear them is to find out who really did it. Just when it looks hopeless they find a letter to the victim, identifying him as the brother of the mine’s owner. He was there to claim his part of the mine, which was left to him by their father. It looks like, in the end, both brothers "got the shaft."


Max Stryker and her cohort, Rick, attend a crime prevention conference in Minneapolis at the Mall of America. There they meet Patrick O’Malley and Grace Johnson, two retired sleuths from New York City. They strike up a friendship immediately. When one of the crime reporters that Max used to work with in Minneapolis doesn’t show up for the session he was really looking forward to, Max suspects foul play even though no one else is convinced, since he was "never reliable anyway." Max, Rick, Patrick and Grace team up to find him, and when they do he is in one of the amusement rides, tightly strapped into his seat. He appears to have been clawed by a cat. The petshop owner is obviously the one who did this, but why? He swears he didn’t, and for some reason the foursome believe him. He is a seedy, unkempt overaged hippy, and the perfect suspect. When they learn that he has some hidden secrets in his past, they wonder if they are on the right track, but continue to prove it--one way or the other. It is almost the end of the trial and all the evidence points to the petshop hippy’s guilt when a deaf girl who saw the whole thing comes in with her mother to tell them who really did it. The head of the convention, hoping to attract some "big time press coverage," staged the whole thing. He thought if he gave him a strong sedative and someone discovered the body, it would be good publicity as they had over 500 private eyes there to try to solve the "murder," which was nothing more than an April Fool’s joke. He intended for it to be a stunt, and the victim had agreed to play along with him--for $10,000. The only thing he hadn’t counted on was the runaway baby tiger from the petstore getting loose and finishing the job he never intended to complete. Can you really try a tiger for murder? How do you lock up an already caged animal?




A great book is like a great mind; it keeps on giving
over and over and over again!
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