I’m called Hollis Morgan, I used the word “called” because due to life circumstances I ditched my first name, moved my middle name up front, and retook my maiden name after dropping my married one.
I am not your usual protagonist. I was born and raised in California (that’s not the unusual part). The middle child with an older sister and a younger brother (that’s not the unusual part either), like some families, mine is more dysfunctional than most. I’ve been told I’m an attractive woman with thick auburn hair and brown eyes, although at five foot three, I refuse to wear stilettos to compensate. When you catch up to my story I’m just finishing my fifth year off of parole (now, that’s the unusual part).
Yep, I’m an ex-con. I spent 18 months of a three year sentence in a California prison for insurance fraud. I was studying in law school when my then husband set me up to take the fall for his criminal activities. His logic was that as a first time offender, I would never do time—tell it to the judge that sentenced me.
I was doubly dumped upon when my family, a conservative self-conscious bunch, literally turned their back on me when I left the courtroom to start my sentence. That wasn’t a real surprise, I knew they would never forgive me for embarrassing them, I knew they believed I was innocent but bringing them notoriety was unforgivable. My family resembled strangers who were stuck on the same piece of real estate. We never went on vacations because that would require a certain amount of closeness. Emotions were frowned upon and conversation discouraged. Not bringing attention to oneself was mandatory.
From the frying pan, into the fire is how I would describe my marriage. I married my college sweetheart. The first year of our marriage was heaven, the second year was like purgatory and the third year was hell. I divorced him from prison and I swore to myself that when I got out I would get my life back. And I stuck to my word, once on parole, I buried my trust muscles deep in my heart and set out to get a judicial pardon, finish law school, take the bar and get my life back on track. I found work as a paralegal, which for the time being, was as close to the law as I could get.
In the meantime my parole officer, Jeffrey Wallace, introduced me to the Fallen Angels Book Club. The Fallen Angels were former white-collar crime parolees of Jeffrey’s who were trying to re-integrate themselves back into society. Most had changed their names, all had maintained the paranoia and lack of trust that comes from having your life turned upside down, and all of us loved books.
I admit I’m more paranoid than the others. I have a special talent, I can spot a liar within seconds and as a result I’m an excellent prevaricator. I enjoy the book club because I can be myself and talk about my favorite pastime, reading a good book. But my resolve was broken when one of the Club members was murdered like an antagonist in one of our monthly selections. It doesn’t take the police long to identify our Club as their viable pool of ex-con suspects. The police are even more convinced when a second member is murdered, similar to another book club selection. Why would a member do such a stupid, obvious crime?
I feel as if I’m starting to drown, in addition to being a suspect and losing my freedom, it appears my eagerness to solve the killings may have put me in line as the next murder victim.
You can read more about Hollis in The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club, the third book in the “Hollis Morgan” mystery series, published by Camel Press. The first two books in the series are The Fallen Angels Book Club and Sticks & Stones.
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Meet the author
R. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley where she cultivated a different type of writing—legislation and public policy. After a career of political advocacy she focused on her first love, writing, and in 2013 her debut novel, The Fallen Angels Book Club, was published by Camel Press, Seattle, WA. James is married with two sons and resides in northern California. Visit her website for more information.