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An intriguing mystery with an unexpected twist.

Title: Laudanum
Author: Cray Donnelly

Publisher: Publish America; (July 2003)

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

ISBN: 1592869335
Paperback: 218pp

Price: $19.95

Rating: Highly Recommended


March 15, 2004


Brandon Keller returns to Louisiana to solve the mysterious murder of his high school sweetheart. He revisits the precious moments that he spent with his lover in an attempt to determine the cause of his death. The police have no leads but Brandon is determined to solve this murder and make sure that the perpetrator is punished. He feels that his lover would want no less.  He revisits the world and the people that he left behind. Some were friends and others were enemies, but he will sacrifice his comfort to see that justice is served.


The story unfolds at a rapid pace as small clues are given and some obvious inconsistencies are ignored. The reader will follow Brandon on his search for justice, meet some of his acquaintances and try to determine who the real killer is.  This is easier said than done as you find out who the accused killer is, but you are left questioning that determination.


Cray Donnelly's writing style resembles that of some of this centurys literary greats, but the story is told from a different perspective. You push past a comfort zone of sorts to digest the images that are given and you will have a great difficulty in putting this book down. Upon opening the first page, a Pandora's box of sorts is activated and you are pulled into the story, one line at a time. You want to solve this mystery as much as Brandon Keller did, and I promise you, the end will surprise you.


Add this one to your library to compliment the other genres assembled there, but be prepared for this one to stand out!  Mr. Donnelly, thank you for the read!



Reviewed by Tyrone Vincent Banks



An Interview with Cray Donnelly

To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?


Laudanum tells the story of Brandon Keller, who, upon his return home after a long stay at the hospital after a near-fatal automobile accident, must cope with the unsolved murder of Josh. Determined, Brandon investigates the night of his accident and the murder--a night he cannot remember.


Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


I grew up in Clarksville, Indiana - a small Southern Indiana town near Louisville Kentucky. Reading was always a presence in my life, but I didn't really get into reading until I was about 15.


Who were your earliest influences and why?


My mother and her family were great storytellers, so I would say that they were very influential in how I approach a story.


What would a typical day be like for a writer?


I wouldn't say I am the norm when it comes to writers--I don't write with a preconceived idea of how the story will develop or end or how the characters will turn out. Just like in every-day life the decisions we make affect the outcome of our lives, and that's how I approach my stories. So, when I am in the process of writing, I will read the story and its progression then sit and continue the story. I write for only about four hours at a time while listening to music I select to convey the mood of the novel I'm working on.


How long have you been writing and in what capacities?


My first story I wrote for others was in 1978. I got my first typewriter that following Christmas--I was seven years old. My first published work was at age thirteen for my local newspaper. For the next four years I wrote a story per year for that newspaper. I wrote my first novel at age 17, which is securely stored in a vault never to see light of day, but served as an encouragement to me when I wanted to approach writing a novel again many years later. In the middle of that I wrote lyrics and music for some local bands, wrote some magazine articles for magazines in many countries, and then finally took the time for myself to create Laudanum.


Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


For me, I think fiction is harder to write because its all about imagination and creating something that doesn't exist while in comparison non-fiction one is re-creating something that already happened.


Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


I've always written for myself, so there has never been pressure to be a huge success, so I've never wanted to give up writing. Had there been pressure to be the next "big thing" I probably would be more hesitant about being a writer.


What is the hardest part about being a writer?


Listening to a reader tell you how a story could be better--never mind the fact that it's already published and on the shelves so an edit is impossible. On the flip-side, its very funny to hear a reader comment on all the symbolism they find in my writing that was never intended.


Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


My favorite free-time activities include listening to music, watching television, cooking, reading, and going to the cinema.


Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


When I write I tend to neglect family and friends. My best friend, Susuanna, and I didn't see each other for nearly a year when I was working on Laudanum.


What question do you get asked more than any other?


Is that character based on me?


Whats the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


I reader left a review on Amazon.com which was very positive. The reviewer said that Laudanum was better than Christopher Rice...I don't know if I would go so far as to compare myself with Christopher Rice--I like his books, and we have a similar readership, but that's where I end my comparison. But it was very cool to read that.


What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


The most frequent comment I get is about how surprised they were by the ending--not the big revelations the story uncovers, but the very end. Don't skip to the last page or you will ruin the journey for yourself. The readers, overall, have been very receptive to the book and very kind with their remarks.


Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


Friends accuse me of being overly perceptive all the time. I'm the annoying person who points out continuity flaws in films in the theatre.


Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


Christopher Rice has yet to write a bad book and his next novel comes out soon. My guilty pleasure is reading Jackie Collins books--she's a "don't miss" author with me.


If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


Read a lot of books by different authors, but don't read a book while you're writing or you'll pick up a hint of that author's voice. Also, take at least a week after you finish reading a book before you start to write a story--cleanse the palette. Also, take a journalism course--journalism focuses on writing basics without clouding a writer's mind with "creative writing" processes. Also, know, understand, and use grammar correctly. The spoken word and the written word are two different beasts.


What kind of movies do you enjoy?


I enjoy many films and film styles. Horror movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Scream (and all their respective sequels). Edge-of-your-seat thrillers are another genre that I love. Movies that are suspenseful are the best. I also like higher-end comedies--Im not into cheap-laugh films.


What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldnt want to live in?


Chicago is a wonderful city to visit, especially the heart of downtown with all its storefronts and clean sidewalks. I just returned from Chicago in February.


Whats the strangest question youve ever been asked in an interview?


I don't think I can say--the FCC is very strict these days.


Whats the best part of being a writer?


Creating a place, a time, and a person you admire and desire for no other reason that you can.


What's next?


Currently I'm working on Absinthe, another mystery with some big twists in-store for my readers.


Betsie's Literary Page thanks Mr. Donnelly for his time in granting us this interview, we hope you the reader has enjoyed it as well. We also wish Mr. Donnelly great success with this novel, as well as with all future works.