Inspiration for a Life of Crime

I first met author Cathi Stoler last year at the Brooklyn Book Festival when she signed a copy of Family Matters, A Mystery Anthology from the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime for me. Cathi’s Derringer Award winning story “The Kaluki King of Queens” appears in the collection– and what a great story it is! I am delighted to have her join me here to discuss the inspiration for her writing. She also shares an excerpt from her mystery novel THE HARD WAY.

Inspiration for a Life of Crime

by Cathi Stoler

Like many authors, I’ve often been asked: “Where do you get your ideas from? Or, “What was the inspiration for that story?” My answer is simple: “My ideas come from what’s going on in the world around us.”

Often, when I pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV, I’ll find a story that fires my imagination and fits with the characters that populate my novels. To me, these ‘ripped from the headlines’ crime stories are a great starting point for the kind of books I enjoy writing filled with the kind of crimes my protagonists enjoy solving.

This has been true for the three novels in my Laurel and Helen New York Mystery Series, featuring magazine editor Laurel Imperiole and P.I. Helen McCorkendale. These women can’t help but get into trouble in a big way. In my first novel, TELLING LIES, which begins with a chance encounter in Florence’s Uffizi museum has the women searching for someone who supposedly died on 9/11, but may be very much alive and reaping the benefits of stealing a fabulously expensive work of art. In the second book, KEEPING SECRETS, Laurel’s attempt to help a reader whose fiancé may not be who she thinks he is, brings the problem of identity theft right to her doorstep. And, in THE HARD WAY, the third book in the series, Helen is thrown into a whirlwind of diamond dealers and International jewel thieves who will stop at nothing to obtain the world’s most precious red diamond.

A disappearance after 9/11 and escalating art market, the problem of identity theft and jewel thieves á la the infamous Pink Panthers, these have all been big news. Ideas that seemed to be perfect for retelling as fiction. But, sometimes, inspiration is more personal and closer to home, as was the case with my short story, “The Kaluki Kings of Queens” an accolade to my husband’s family who played that card game for years.

I believe Inspiration can come from anywhere. It’s what you do with it that’s the fun part.

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Excerpt From THE HARD WAY

Gala Opening
January Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada

“No one comes to Las Vegas
thinking they’re going home a loser.”
–Jimmy Scanlan

January was a dream come true. A soaring glass tower of planes and angles in perfect proportion, whose spires poked at the clouds with an insistence that demanded attention.

“Holy shit!” Mike’s eyes opened wide in amazement when the corporate helicopter that had picked them up from the private jet approached the hotel on the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

“So, tell me what you really think.” Helen laughed. “You must have used that expression about fifty times since we left New York.” She squeezed his arm playfully.

“Jeez, I mean, look at this.” Mike swept his other arm wide in an all-encompassing gesture. “Double holy shit.” He grinned.

“It’s typical Jimmy.” Helen nodded. “The biggest, but also the best.”

 CathiPhoto (2)Cathi Stoler’s first mystery series includes TELLING LIES, KEEPING SECRETS, and
THE HARD WAY, all of which feature P.I. Helen McCorkendale and magazine editor, Laurel Imperiole. She recently finished the first book in a news series, BAR NONE: A MURDER ON THE ROCKS MYSTERY, and is working on a full-length sequel to her novella, NICK OF TIME. Stoler won 2015 Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Award for Best Short Story for her “Kaluki Kings of Queens” in the MURDER NEW YORK STYLE anthology, FAMILY MATTERS. Cathi is Vice-President of the New York/Tri-State chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers.

hard_way (2)THE HARD WAY by Cathi Stoler

Helen McCorkendale’s friend, Jimmy Scanlan has just opened January, a lavish Las Vegas resort and casino. When a mysterious woman is murdered poolside, Helen investigates and is thrown into a whirlwind of diamond dealers and International jewel thieves, all of whom might kill in a heartbeat to obtain the world’s most precious red diamond.



You can find Cathi at, on Twitter and on Amazon.





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4 Responses to Inspiration for a Life of Crime

  1. Hi Cathi,
    Just wanted to mention that I enjoyed Telling Lies and Keeping Secrets. Now you have me wanting to skip work and read The Hard Way. Much success to you.

  2. enjoyed your post, Cathy. Keep the stories coming!

  3. Cathi Stoler says:

    Thanks, Annamaria. Will do!