James Emerson (Jimmy) Loyd is a recovering architect and retired real estate executive, hardly the classic apprenticeship paths to becoming an author, first of historical fiction, next of crime/mystery novel(s).

Early in my early retirement (I’m not that old!), I found time to read and re-read my way through our library, histories by Tuchman and Gilbert and Keegan to literature high and low — Faulkner and Fitzgerald, but also Clancy and Crichton.  I particularly enjoyed Alan Furst’s atmospheric spy novels with their re-created between-the-wars settings.  And so I resolved to try a hand at fiction, my first since college entrance essays.

As an amateur historian of the twentieth century, particularly the first half I never experienced firsthand, I had long been fascinated by the First World War and how Germany’s collapse in 1918 led to Europe’s descent into totalitarianism.  So, with a rough idea of a subject — how that collapse could have been averted at the eleventh hour — I sat down at the keyboard and began to write.  Before long I found myself simply taking dictation from my characters as they took over the storyline, and thirteen hundred pages later, the Great War Won trilogy was done.

I must have done something right — the Historical Novel Society made the saga an Editors’ Choice, naming it one of the Best Indie Books of 2016; their review:

The final years of the First World War form the backdrop for James Emerson Loyd’s epic trilogy The Great War Won.  The trilogy ranges from the corridors of power in London to the front lines of the Allied forces in the field, especially the ranks of the German armed forces.  The saga takes in a sprawling cast of characters, some from the pages of history, and some wholly invented by the author (the foremost of these, a princess named Claire described by no less than Theodore Roosevelt as a force of nature, is a spectacular fictional creation).

The first volume of the trilogy, Who Desires Peace… focuses on the efforts of a small group of conspirators bent on bringing about a peace at any cost.  The second (…Should Prepare for War) and third volume (A Power of Recognized Superiority) concentrate more on battlefields than espionage, and in all cases Loyd’s strong, supple prose never falters, his ear for dialogue never dulls, and his knack for capturing historical characters with well-chosen small details never deserts him.

Woven into the trilogy’s powerful but more or less conventional set pieces of historical fiction are subtle but fascinating tweakings of alternative history that often involve real historical characters like Michael Collins and Rosa Luxemburg in activities that would have astounded them. The result is a genuinely impressive accomplishment, enthusiastically recommended. 

— Steve Donoghue

 

Emboldened, I set out on something new and entirely different, a drugs/crime/mystery set in my hometown of Alamo Heights, surrounded by the much larger City of San Antonio.  I quickly realized I didn’t know any of the requisite ‘cop stuff’, but remembered someone who did — David Matheson, a high school classmate who had a long career as a patrolman, homicide inspector and undercover narcotics operative.

The story revolves around the apparent drug overdose and death of a promising high school senior.  The boy’s parents must not only learn to cope with the loss of a son, but try not to become drug casualties themselves.  The father’s attempts are animated by memories of an old friend lost to drugs twenty years before, the mother’s complicated by family difficulties and history.

As a local police detective investigates, he must juggle the search for justice, an old friendship and his own inner demons. The story takes a darker turn when his investigation reveals new evidence spurring on the father’s quest to find the person who brought drugs into his son’s all-too-brief life, the “Starter” of the title.  Mayhem ensues, suspicions rise, lines are crossed as these three characters find themselves entwined in a headlong rush toward a rendezvous with death.

Red City Review wrote:

A thrilling suspense novel and murder mystery, Starter by James E. Loyd and David Matheson is a multi-layered narrative that includes every kind of topic you’d want in a thriller, ranging from murder, overdose, mob connections, betrayal, secrets, lies, and revealing flashbacks. The book kicks off in 1997 in an upscale neighborhood in San Antonio where a high school senior is found dead. Even though it is claimed to be due to an overdose, suspicions abound, the lives of three of the main characters intertwining at this time, before we shift back to the late sixties, getting the backstories of what led the characters to this moment. Readers will be intrigued with everything that happens, as the plot follows the father of the victim and his high school sweetheart, her father’s mob connections, and the revelation that the high school student was apparently poisoned. This leads the characters on a quest for answers, and revenge.

The story line is often complex, and even though the chapters are very short and easy to get through, there is a lot of exposition and background dumped on the reader at one time. The authors build strong characters and an interesting story line, but at times it becomes somewhat muddled due to how many characters and facets of the storytelling are being weaved together. The timeline moves quickly, with entire years being represented by short chapters that are only one or two pages long. However, the dialogue is raw and realistic, and the characters are painted in a believable fashion, making them come alive on the page. Readers will be drawn into the story, with its many twists and turns, rushing through to the very end to find the answers that seem to be alluding everyone else trapped within the pages of this suspenseful nightmare.

This novel, entitled STARTER, became available on Amazon at Christmastime, 2017.  My co-author and I are at work on a compilation of his experiences on the force ranging from the comic to the grisly to the tragic.  Tentatively entitled Out of the Blue, it is expected early in 2018.  And, a sequel to STARTER is in the works!  When, I just can’t say.

My next project is a nonfiction novel based on my great-grandfather’s experiences as a Georgia infantryman in the Civil War, including a miraculous rescue at Gettysburg.  Research is ongoing!