Category Archives: Blog

Is Your Money Counterfeit?

In my upcoming novel Record Scratch (preorder here) I take the reader into the world of counterfeit currency. This was a field in which I got involved when I was a Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and counterfeit currency cases were the favorite criminal cases I worked.

Although cash transactions are fewer and fewer here in the U.S., they are still common and counterfeiting is still an issue. In fact, it’s been a problem in North America since before the creation of the United States.

Shells and Stones May Break My Bones…

In colonial America, shells and stones were used as currency. These were easily counterfeited (upon penalty of death) and colonies eventually moved toward metal coins. However, with the eruption of the Revolutionary War, using metal for coins wasn’t much of an option since metal was needed for weaponry. Now the colonies had already been playing around with using paper money in various forms, with interesting results. For instance, Benjamin Franklin had printed money in Pennsylvania and integrated intricate anti-counterfeiting security features such as detailed engravings of leaves into his work. Most interestingly, he would misspell “Pennsylvania” intentionally, so that would-be counterfeiters would believe THEY had inadvertently picked up a counterfeit bill and would correct the misspelling when they printed the money, therefore giving themselves away.

The front of a Franklin printed bill

The back of a Franklin bill – note Pennsylvania is misspelled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the Revolutionary War, the British took advantage of the colonial paper money by counterfeiting much of it, and devaluing the currency. Hence the phrase, “Not worth a Continental” which you probably don’t say too often today. Maybe you do. Your call.

Civil War

Near the end of the Civil War in 1865, nearly two-thirds of the currency floating around was phony. Not only did each state seem to have its own money, but many banks issued their own notes. So, nobody really knew what money was supposed to look like! Currency was nationalized and Abraham Lincoln created the United States Secret Service to covertly combat counterfeiting (the agency had nothing to do with Presidential protection until much later).

Evolution of Security Features

Over time, and with the transition from lithographic printing to offset printing, security features in money have become more advanced. There are currently seven denominations of paper currency considered to be in circulation:  $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100. The higher the denomination, the more advanced the security features (there is no profit in counterfeiting a $1 bill). The security features have changed over time based on the Series (new designs) of the notes (all U.S. paper currency are technically “Federal Reserve Notes”) and there is a great resource to view all the features. The resource is the U.S. Currency Education Program and it’s run by the Federal Reserve Bank with assistance from the Secret Service and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. I LOVE this website.

Anyway, the key security features in U.S. paper currency are:

  • The paper:  It’s actually 75% cotton and 25% linen.
  • Red & blue fibers:  These are woven into the paper.
  • Microprinting:  Difficult to duplicate unless using an offset printer.*
  • Raised printing:  You can feel the ink raised off the currency paper.
  • Color-shifting ink:  Changes color when tilted.*
  • Watermarks:  Can be viewed through paper when held up to light.*
  • Security Threads:  Embedded in the paper.*
  • 3D Security Ribbon:  In the paper and includes shifting images.*

*present on some denominations

Most modern-day counterfeiting is small-time, low-quality, and done on computers. However, some mass offset printer counterfeiting still occurs and a good deal of decent counterfeit comes out of Lima, Peru as you can see here.

Know Your Money

So to make sure you’re carrying the real stuff, check out the U.S. Currency Education page, specifically the denominations section https://www.uscurrency.gov/denominations. Make sure you look at the correct Series of the note you are checking and click to expand on the Additional Features section on the right side of the screen (if available) to see all the security features of a particular denomination.

Don’t play the fool!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, Record Scratchand other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

October 2018

RECORD SCRATCH

Preorder

“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”

It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.

A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.

Praise for RECORD SCRATCH:

Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water

“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33

“J.J. Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter

“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts

Available Now!

BOLT ACTION REMEDY

Buy it on Amazon!

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

I Finally Wrote About Funny Money

If you follow my blog, then you probably know I was a Secret Service agent. If you’ve read any of my books, then you probably know I haven’t really written anything related to the Secret Service. This is completely intentional, as I’ve always been uncomfortable with mixing business with pleasure – or, at least, THAT business with book business.

However, a few years ago I was having lunch with fellow author Tom Sweterlitch (The Gone World, Tomorrow and Tomorrow) at a five-star restaurant in New York City (it was actually bad Chinese food in the basement of Grand Central Station) when my usually mild-mannered friend chastised me for not incorporating more of my background into my works of fiction. Although I was reluctant, I did take his advice to heart and now we are a few months away from the release of Record Scratch. Of course I was cautious as to what to include in the novel, but it turns out it wasn’t difficult to use my training and knowledge and not disclose anything sensitive.

While the protagonist of Record Scratch isn’t a Secret Service agent, he does become entangled in one of the agency’s investigations. Better yet, it’s the kind of investigation I enjoyed working the most – counterfeit currency.

Most people associate the United States Secret Service (USSS) with protecting the President, Vice-President and their families. However, the original mission of the USSS was to combat counterfeit currency which was a major threat to the economy at the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865. In fact, the USSS did not fully take on presidential protection responsibilities until 1901. Even today, the agency is the United State’s primary enforcement entity in regards to counterfeit currency and coordinates such investigations both domestically and overseas. The quality of counterfeit “notes” (paper money is technically referred to as Federal Reserve Notes) varies greatly. Some notes reproduced on home computers are quite bad while counterfeit notes created with offset printers (a rarity) can be good. The currency “paper” is unique, as it isn’t really paper, but is actually a cotton/linen mix – sort of like blue jeans. And of course there are security features built into U.S. currency and those features are updated every few years.

If you want to be a complete currency dork (like me), you can learn about the various security features here: https://www.uscurrency.gov/denominations

These days, most high-quality counterfeit notes come from Peru. It used to be Colombia, but the Colombian government got on board with cracking down on the manufacturers. Unfortunately, this resulted in the illicit operations picking up and moving next door. Vice News did an entire special on the counterfeit underworld in Lima and it’s fascinating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RoZrtBijRY

There are a variety of methods in which counterfeiters work the system. To get around the problem of obtaining actual currency paper, they will sometimes bleach $1 bills and reprint higher denominations on the paper. They will use creative means in an effort to replicate the effects of color-shifting ink. They will… well, watch the Vice News video. It’s impressive and labor intensive. Depending on the quality of the product and the marketplace, counterfeit currency will fetch a price of about twenty cents on the dollar. So, a manufacturer selling $1000 in counterfeit notes may sell that product for $200 in genuine currency. The purchaser of the counterfeit notes may then go out on the street and pass the currency at various unsuspecting retailers by making small purchases and then they get genuine currency in return as change. I’m oversimplifying the process to some extent, but that’s essentially how it works on a small scale.

So get ready for Record Scratch! It involves music and money. (scratch… money… get it?) It’s set for Release in October, but can be preordered directly from the publisher now and the deal on it is amazing.

In conclusion, I leave you with an extremely young Willem Dafoe manufacturing counterfeit currency while wearing a kimono… or something.

 

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, Record Scratchand other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

October 2018

RECORD SCRATCH

Preorder

“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”

It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.

A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.

Praise for RECORD SCRATCH:

Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water

“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33

“J.J. Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter

“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts

Available Now!

BOLT ACTION REMEDY

Buy it on Amazon!

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

RECORD SCRATCH – A PREVIEW

My fabulous publisher, Down and Out Books has set the release of my next novel Record Scratch for October. You can get a glimpse below!

https://mailchi.mp/downandoutbooks/coming-in-october-from-down-out-books-record-scratch-by-jj-hensley

“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”

It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.

As Galloway pieces together the final days of rock and roll legend Jimmy Spartan, he struggles to sort through his own issues, to include having the occasional hallucination. He’s not certain how bad his condition has deteriorated, but when Galloway is attacked in broad daylight by men he assumed were figments of his imagination, he realizes the threat is real and his condition is putting him and anyone nearby at risk. The stoic demeanor that earned Galloway the nickname The Tin Man is tested as he reunites with an old flame, becomes entangled in a Secret Service investigation, and does battle with old enemies.


Advance Praise for RECORD SCRATCH:

Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water

“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33

“JJ Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter 

“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

Cover Reveal – Record Scratch

Here it is. Visit Crimespree and see the cover of my upcoming novel, Record Scratch. Coming this October! http://crimespreemag.com/cover-reveal-for-record-scratch-by-j-j-hensley/

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

So, I Decided to Quit Writing

“What do you write?”

It was a simple question being asked of me at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Toronto last year. I’d already participated in a panel discussion and answered similar questions, but this time I was being asked by the wildly successful Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines, Dark Matter, Good Behavior, etc.) while we were standing in the hotel lobby. Everybody knew of him. A handful people knew of me.

I shrugged and said, “I just released my fourth breakout novel.”

He smiled politely and moved on to talk to someone who wasn’t spewing gibberish. Looking back, I think this is when my bitterness with the book industry really began to manifest itself and my usual sarcasm and self-deprecation developed more of an edge. You see, my first novel WAS a breakout novel and got a lot of recognition. It’s not like I became a household name or anything, but I couldn’t ask for much more from a debut. The first novel led to the second, which several fellow authors and reviewers referred to as my breakout novel. Then my third breakout novel came out. Then, I started a new series with a new publisher and REALLY nailed it with my fourth breakout novel. My fifth breakout novel is set to come out this September. I think it’s my best work to date.

However, the problem with my breakout novels is they haven’t really ever broken out of the realm of the well-received, but not NYT Bestseller list material. They sell some copies and they get great reviews, but that’s about the extent of it.

Throughout the past year, I’ve watched as several of my author friends received large book deals and sold the movie rights to their books. While I’ve been happy for them, I’m going to make a confession here. I got jealous. Then, I got pissed off at myself for getting jealous. Then, I got furious at myself for not being able to eliminate my pettiness even though I recognized its ridiculousness. Bouchercon came and went and in the meantime I had changed jobs and moved to a new state, causing me to walk away from my latest manuscript. The stress of the move and the career change weighed on me throughout the winter. Then, Super Bowl Sunday came and my wife and I had the television on while I was cooking something in the kitchen.

I wasn’t paying attention, but a commercial came on and I heard my wife say, “Oh, no.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” she said.

I looked at the television. Sure enough, there was a Super Bowl commercial for a movie based on a book that had beat one of mine for a major award. At the time, critics had praised that author’s debut as a breakout novel. And it was. Hollywood had said so.

It’s been five years since my first breakout novel and a few months since I decided to walk away from writing. I told my wife I was probably done for good. Understanding my frustration and how I HATED that I had let myself feel petty and bitter, she didn’t try to stop me. I told an author I respect, Ed Aymar, I might be done. He called me a dumbass. He’s delicate in that way. Regardless, I went months without typing a word.

Here is the point where you’re thinking, Oh get over yourself, moron. Do you know how hard it is to get traditionally published even one time? 

And you’re right.

You’re thinking, Cry me a river, J.J. Stop being such a drama queen and appreciate what you’ve accomplished.

And you’re right.

You might want to ask me, “Are you writing for stupid accolades or for the art itself? Isn’t writing it’s own reward?”

And these would be valid questions.

Three weeks ago, I started writing again. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it had something to do with the fact I had run into some retirees who had nothing to do after they left their careers. I’m a long way from retirement, but I don’t want to feel adrift when it’s time for the next chapter of my life and writing has always given me a purpose beyond my role in the workforce.

The writing process has been more difficult than it’s ever been for me. I question the characters I create. I question the plot direction. I question the dialogue. These difficulties have made me really evaluate what kind of stories I write and the life choices of the characters I’ve created. The ambiguity I’ve felt about my writing is showing up in how my characters react, or don’t react, to situations. The story I’m writing is taking a direction none of my other novels have. The protagonist is at a crossroads and has come to realize he has very little control over the variables of life. The actions and opinions of others are outside his sphere of influence and while our existences are complex, satisfaction with one’s actions is based on simplicity and learning to accept some of our own demons.

So, I’m writing my sixth novel. It deviates from anything I’ve done to date and the protagonist will have changed a great deal throughout the series. During the construction of this story, both the main character and I are trying to reconcile how our expectations affect ourrealities and vice versa.

I’d been starting to feel negative about the breakout label, but maybe its a good thing if every book is considered a breakout novel. We’re supposed to break into new territory with every new idea. Otherwise, the storylines of our own lives can become stale and predictable.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

Pay It Forward – James Grady

Over on The Thrill Begins, we have a series going on called Pay It Forward. I took my turn and absolutely did NOT pay tribute to James Grady (Six Days of the Condor). Nope.

http://thrillbegins.com/2018/04/12/grady/

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

How Your Right to Bear Arms (and Nearly Every Other Right) is Limited

In recent weeks, the gun control debate has become heated to the point children have become vilified for speaking in favor of limiting public access to certain weapons and some gun owners have been stereotyped as warmongering barbarians. This polarization is unproductive and while overly-simplistic memes posted online may look cute, they are often inaccurate and are little more than silly taunts. Unfortunately, there are many among us who take clever soundbites and memes as gospel and get incredibly upset if contradicted.

Just the other day, a man posted a meme stating Secret Service agents carry a weapon called an HK MP7 and that each elected officials gets lifetime protection upon retirement. When I replied to the post by pointing out I had been in the Secret Service, we never carried that weapon, and only the President and his/her immediate family get lifetime protection, the reaction of the posting individual was predictable. Suddenly, I became a liberal sheep who was being herded to a slaughter. Which is strange, because most sheep I have known are conservative-leaning which is why they cover themselves with so much wool.

Sorry about that. It was baaad.

Anyway—regardless of where one stands on the issue of gun control, there is an underlying problem with an argument made by many gun enthusiast (for lack of a better term). There are many who claim the right to bear arms cannot be limited or at least cannot be limited any more than is already done. Now on the face of it, this is completely illogical. The 2nd Amendment has been limited time and time again and may face more limits in the future. Of course, it was expanded well beyond well-regulated militias to begin with.

And of course there are some limits. You can’t go buy a fully automatic machine gun without jumping through various hoops, nor can you legally purchase a firearm in most jurisdictions if you are a convicted felon. These are limitations. One individual recently tried to tell me that Constitutional Amendments are not, and can never be, subject to limitations. He argued the rights we have from Amendments are permanent in nature. Well, this simply isn’t true. In fact, there is a clue as to the lack of permanence and certainty of our rights. It’s in the name AMENDMents. Amendments are add-ons to other rights. They can be added, adjusted, or repealed. They are fluid in nature and are constantly defined and redefined in the courts. Not buying it? Well, let’s explore the limits and permanency of a few of the Amendments added to the Constitution.

1st Amendment – Sure, you have the right to free speech. However, you can’t scream “fire” in a crowded theater or threaten harm to an individual. I’ve arrested multiple people who threatened a President and they can attest to the veracity of my claim. There are also plenty of obscenity laws on the books and they get enforced throughout the nation.

4th Amendment – You cannot be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures but upon probable cause. However, the courts are continuously updating what constitutes probable cause and what may justify a warrant one day may not the next.

5th Amendment – One cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Those who have had money taken away by the Federal government and been forced to prove the funds were legally obtained would like to debate this one with you.

8th Amendment – Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. If there was ever a subjective Amendment, it’s this sucker. What is excessive? What is cruel and unusual? Do those words mean the same thing as they did in 1789?

19th Amendment – Allowed women to vote. Kind of an important modification.

21st Amendment – Repealed the 18th. Bye-bye prohibition. I’ll drink to that!

And so on…

The point here isn’t to push a gun control agenda. It’s to demonstrate that any argument in which a person states they have “God given” or “Absolute” right, is likely a falsehood supported by ill-conceived quips and memes and not backed by any understanding of history, legislation, or jurisprudence. Many atrocities have been supported by our laws. The decimation of the Native American population, the horrendous institution of slavery, the shame of Japanese internment—these were all supported by laws.

We shouldn’t harbor so much fear about our laws being subject to change. However, we should be scared as hell when they are not.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology