in extremis 
 Ken Goddard's
Fiction-Writing Web Site


Descriptions of My Fiction Novels


But first, a fair warning ...

The 'thriller' novels described below are fairly gory and violent. The crime scenes are as realistic as I could make them without deliberately trying to trigger the reader's gag reflex. There's a significantly high body count amongst the good-guy characters as well as the bad, which has generated more than a few quizzical looks and muttered comments from my cop and agent buddies. And I try not to make the forensic scientists any more heroic than is absolutely necessary.

You can expect to find animals taking a significant part (and having a significant impact) in all of the books. The lurking shark in BALEFIRE. The numerous snakes and the mouse in THE ALCHEMIST. The irrepressible ferret and the ever-protective German Shepherd in DIGGER/CHEATER. The grizzly bear in PREY. The rare Cat Island turtle in WILDFIRE. And in DOUBLE BLIND ... well, the best I can say for DOUBLE BLIND is that the animal situation there got completely out of control.  All of which, I suppose, may explain the appearance of the ultimate in invasive species in FIRST EVIDENCE and OUTER PERIMETER. 

However, least the gentle-hearted of my readers be concerned, there are some 'sensuous and romantic moments' throughout the stories. At least I think they're sensuous and romantic. My dear wife's cheerful comments in this regard are perhaps best left for some other home page. Much better that you see (and read) for yourself.



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... was my first published novel, and remains my favorite [although DOUBLE BLIND comes in a close second, and I have to confess a perverse fondness for THE ALCHEMIST], if only because it's the most frightening book I've written on a personal level. Why so frightening? Simply because police officers are almost never trained to deal with professional terrorists, for the perfectly logical reason that it is highly unlikely that they will ever run across such an individual in their entire careers. Instead, they're trained to deal with drunk drivers, thoughtless drug dealers, petty thieves, inept burglars, and the like.

So when a real, honest-to-god professional terrorist named Thanatos shows up along the shoreline of Huntington Beach, California, intent on destroying the scenic beach city as a demonstration against the 1984 Olympic games, the local cops have no idea what's happening, and therefore don't stand much of a chance. Which puts them in a terrible situation when they're forced to chose between defending their city, their families ... and themselves.


A kind review from Playboy:
"You'll go from the first chapter to the final sentence
before you remember to get up for a sandwich ... beautifully plotted."

From John Saul:
"Balefire comes at you like a firestorm. The action starts fast
and then accelerates through to the last page."

And Publisher's Weekly: "A real heart-attack of a climax!"

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You may be able to find a copy of the original Bantam
mass market edition at a used book store [right], or
(ideally, from my viewpoint) you could pick up
a copy of the Tor/Forge re-issued mass market edition [left]

Check here to read the first chapter of BALEFIRE


THE ALCHEMISTzalhb.jpg (6515 bytes)

... is the story of Dr. David Isaac, a brilliant young University of California professor of organic chemistry who came up with the idea of making slight structural changes in hallucinogenic drugs that would make them perfectly legal to sell, but didn't anticipate the impact this first-ever designer drug might have on the dealers making millions from the sale of perfectly illegal drugs.

Hiding behind his underworld identity as the elusive Alchemist, Isaac, the creator of the wondrous sex-enhancing analogs code-named Power-Rainbow and Rainbow-Vision, finds himself being sought by the Mob and a retired U.S. Army 'General' turned drug dealer, and protected by a terribly dangerous drug kingpin named Jimmy Pilgrim and his psychotic, knife-freak enforcer named Rainbow. Increasingly paranoid as he falls prey to his own increasingly powerful chemical creations, Isaac has no idea that his life will ultimately hinge on the actions of a hapless street kid named Eugene Bylighter, a beautiful young hooker named Skylight, a pair of terrifying snakes, and a timid and frightened kangaroo rat named Mini-Cooper.

The heroes: DEA special agents Ben Koda and Charlie Shannon, and DEA tech agent Sandy Mudd, a mismatched team of covert investigators fiercely determined to find this fabled Alchemist, hunt down the General, Pilgrim and Rainbow, and avenge the horrible deaths of two of their fellow agents. But to pull it all off, they will ultimately have to do something that is unthinkably dangerous: make a one-pound buy off Jimmy Pilgrim.

Oh, and just to make things interesting, I added a young and naive forensic scientist who --- knowing nothing of the General, Pilgrim, Rainbow, or the Mob --- agrees to pose as an underground chemist in order to help a local narcotics sergeant find the lab source of this terribly dangerous and enticing new analog. But not knowing how to make drugs, she seeks out her ex-professor of organic chemistry who, she hopes, will teach her some believable magic tricks.

Where did I get the idea for this book? Well, you see, some time after I'd joined the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, and at the suggestion of the Vice/narcotics detail, I went to see my ex-organic chemistry professor at UCR ....


"Tense ... fast .... violent ... entirely plausible,
because of Goddard's brutal attention to detail and police procedure."
--- The San Diego Union.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune: "The meanest, dirtiest, knock-them-down,
pick-them-up and sock-em-again book around."

Or, as Publisher's Weekly put it:
"There's enough sex and violence here to stock a miniseries."

Well, that's probably overstating the situation just a bit, but I did try.

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I suppose I should also tell you that THE ALCHEMIST is the one book my dear mother would probably just as soon you didn't read ... and she was undoubtedly quite relieved when the Bantam paperback version on the right finally went out of print.

Howsoever, if you're just a wee bit curious about what a New England raised mother would just as soon you didn't read, you can always rummage around the used book stores for the old Bantam version ... or your can ask your friendly bookstore owner to order the Tor/Forge re-issued paperback version on the left.

Poor Mom ....

Click here to read the first chapter of THE ALCHEMIST.


zdigmm.jpg (5742 bytes)... is the story of Henry Culver, an ex-CIA surveillance specialist who joins the Fairfax County (VA) Police Department as a police officer/criminalist in order to escape some unpleasant memories from his earlier profession. Unfortunately for Henry, he never quite manages to escape his past. And his refusal to assist his former employers in one of their nefarious plots results in his being targeted by a thoroughly warped and homicidal burglar who goes after his victims through the crawl spaces of their homes, cuts a trap door in the flooring, installs tiny hinges, razor-cuts through the carpeting, and then waits for them like a trap-door spider.

But just to throw things off a bit, you'll find a genuine CIA hero in the mix.

The trick is to figure out who ... and why.

And in the process, try not to think too much about the crawl space scene.

DIGGER is also out of print, but you might find a copy of the original paperback in a used book store.  Or, better yet, take a look at the re-written version of DIGGER (titled CHEATER) further down below.


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... is the first of my books written around a wildlife law enforcement theme. The story involves a San Diego police homicide investigator named Henry Lightstone who, through no intention of his own, ends up becoming a federal wildlife agent. And to answer what I suppose might be an obvious question, no, I have no idea why I used the name Henry for two different main characters in two successive books. Probably something psychological. I suppose I could always ask one of my shrink buddies, but I figure it's probably better that I don't know.

Anyway, Henry is one of those aggressively-instinctive cops who doesn't necessarily play by all of the rules. As the story begins, he is up in Anchorage, Alaska, working undercover (out of his jurisdiction, naturally) in order to track down the leader of a malicious biker gang who assaulted his partner. Unbeknownst to Henry, he has been spotted , and subsequently monitored, by a very professional team of covert federal wildlife agents who are working against the very same gang for very different reasons. After observing Henry for a while, they come to the conclusion that he is exactly the kind of covert investigator---reckless, tough, fearless, and totally unpredictable---that they need to round out their team. In effect, a very useful 'wild-card.' Henry is quickly and efficiently recruited into the Service [basically, the agents give him up to the bikers, and then thoughtfully proceed to save his butt at the last minute], whereupon my understandably skeptical and suspicious new federal agent and his partners find themselves confronted---and ultimately hunted down---by a team of terribly dangerous international terrorists who have been hired to destroy the environmental movement using a deadly series of CIA-type tricks.


A very kind review:
"The prose gallops like a runaway moose through Goddard's
environmental adventure yarn." ---Publisher's weekly.

And: "Only the fish are neutral in Goddard's bloody,
entertaining eco-thriller. An extraordinary and relentlessly violent plot....
not for the fainthearted" ---Kirkus Reviews.

I have a feeling my mother was starting to get seriously worried about me at this point. I assured her that all of this had nothing to do with my upbringing. Just the influence of my cop & agent buddies, and the other interesting folks I tend to associate with these days.


PREY is currently available as a Tor/Forge paperback, and the cover looks just like the hardcover so I didn't see any point in repeating things. Same goes for WILDFIRE and CHEATER.

Click here to read the first chapter of PREY


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... my fifth book, is a sequel to PREY in which the surviving characters reappear (remember what I said about a high body count), the industrial conspiracy to destroy the environmental movement reemerges, and a group of radical environmental activists strike back. Having already trashed the rabid industrialists, I figured fair was fair.

As a result, Henry Lightstone and his fellow federal wildlife agents find themselves confronting not only their old nemesis, ICER, but also an extra-lethally-armed bad-guy named Riser, and a questionably evil woman.

Mom and my dear wife raised their eyebrows at this last part, but I assured them that she was nothing more than a sensuous figment of my over-active imagination. After all, what possible interest could I have in a questionably evil woman? [ :)].

Evil or not, she is interesting ... and the action ultimately takes place in and around the Bahamas where, among other things, it's definitely not safe to be in or on the water.

According to yet another set of kind reviewers:
" Wildfire has a blow-em-all-to-hell kind of liveliness." ---Publisher's weekly.

"Ken Goddard is the Field & Stream Tom Clancy." ---Kirkus Reviews.

For some reason, Mom found that last comment reassuring, although I'm not at all sure why.

Click here to read the first chapter of WILDFIRE

CHEATERzchhb.jpg (5921 bytes)

... is basically a re-write of DIGGER in which I replaced several crucial paragraphs that had been left out of DIGGER, and added the nice little twist of the CIA setting up a fake environmental movement in order to manipulate the economies of countries using the World Trade Organization and the Endangered Species Act ... which, among many other things, brings a vengeance-seeking French Secret Service agent by the name of Lt. Colonel L'Que into the picture.

I hasten to add here that I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that the CIA is actually doing any such thing. And the fact that I'm still around to write novels, construct home pages, and shoo cows back and forth across my pasture is probably as good an indicator as any that they aren't. One can only hope.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the idea for DIGGER/CHEATER came about several years ago when I had to work a crawl-space scene on a homicide case (some real-life idiot was killing people and burying their bodies under the crawl spaces of creepy old houses). Among other cheerful aspects, I had to tape my wrists, ankles and neck to keep the spiders from getting into my clothing while I was under the house. Figured that as long as I was going to have nightmares about those 2.5 hours for the rest of my life, I might as well share them with my dear readers.

Another kind take from Krikus Reviews:
"A wealth of violent action, outer-edge plotting, and authentic detail
on what lab guys really look for at a crime scene."


NOTE: CHEATER is also available as a Forge paperback.

Click here to read the first chapter of CHEATER


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The third book in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Special Agent Henry Lightstone series involves ... my intrepid hero covert fish and wildlife special agents; a bunch of inept militants dug into the mountains of Oregon who spend most of their time drinking beer and dreaming about kidnapping a federal agent and putting him/her on trial, but have no intention of doing so ... and wouldn't have a prayer, even if they did; a rogue Army Ranger hunter-killer team that is extremely competent, and perfectly capable of going after an entire covert agent team if they so desire (which they do); a corrupt, duck-poaching congressman --- who doesn't think the hunting rules and regs apply to him --- and his bagman assistant; a witch (with her very own panther) who runs the local post office; a supposedly blind soothsayer who rides around on a motorbike muttering "things are never as they seem"; a warehouse filled with 3 crocodiles, 30 poisonous Australian snakes, and 750 giant red-kneed tarantulas; the FBI; a supposedly evil woman [ :)]; and Bigfoot herself.

Now you see why I don't worry too much about random CIA plots. Fact of the matter is, if real life in the Fish & Wildlife Service was anything like my fiction, I'd be afraid to leave the house.

From the Library Journal:
"A sexy witch with a pet panther, a ruthless congressman and his team of killers-for-hire,
and a warehouse full of deadly snakes and spiders are just the beginning.
Throw in a couple of mythical beasts and a blind soothsayer
and you get this amusing, fast-paced thriller replete with bizarre characters and outrageous situations.
Recommended for popular fiction collections."

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Double Blind is now available as a Forge mass market book.


Click here to read the prologue of DOUBLE BLIND


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The Rules are simple:

They can't stay long
They can't use their advanced technology, only what is at hand
And, most important of all, they can't ever leave evidence of their visit

But they did ... they lost something ... and they want it back.
The only problem is, what they lost may be in the hands
 of a very persistent crime scene investigator,
which would make it ...



So what inspired me to start digging around for extraterrestrial evidence?

Well, back in 1997, I was invited to be a guest on the Art Bell Talk Radio show.  Art was on live across the U.S. from 10:00P.M. (Pacific Time Zone) until about 4:00A.M.]

Although, in truth, I'm really guessing about the 4:00A.M. part. I had to work the next day, so I only lasted until about 3:30. But during that time, Art and I and several attentive callers discussed, at considerable length, a topic apparently dear to the hearts of his fans, namely: "why doesn't anybody believe us when we try to tell them about our contacts with extraterrestrial beings?"

Which led to a second question: how can we (properly) document and collect the evidence necessary to prove to everyone that these contacts actually happened?

And a third: since your lab (The National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory) deals with 'non-human' materials, would evidence of extraterrestrial contact normally be sent to your lab?

[Important note to extraterrestrial investigators: sorry, but evidence submitted to our lab must be accompanied by a law enforcement agency case number & evidence tag ... and, as far as I am aware, the Endangered Species Act does not protect Bigfoot or extraterrestrials.  We do, of course, live in dread of a legislator with a malicious sense of humor ... but, so far, we've been spared].

As you might expect, the second question was the reason I was offered a chance to 'sit in' on the Art Bell show. He wanted a forensic scientist's and a crime scene investigator's point of view; but I'm not sure all his listeners really wanted to hear what I had to say. Because, from my point of view, it is really a very simple and straight-forward situation. These people who are so intent on collecting their own evidence (to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, their extraterrestrial encounters) are advocates, which is to say: fervent believers. And no one --- especially the media types, not to mention the cops or the courts --- is going to trust a fervent believer not to alter or fake their presented evidence.

What these people really needed, I explained at some early hour in the morning, was a professional crime scene investigator. Someone like myself. Someone who really didn't care, one way or the other, whether aliens really have been visiting us over these past 50 years. Which set off a whole new discussion about what I would do if I actually found evidence of extraterrestrial contact at a crime scene. And something of apparent equal concern: how would the government respond? Would they shut me up? Brand me a crackpot? Send me to Guam with my CSI kit to deal with the alien brown snake situation?

I assured them that the federal government was nowhere near as devious and malicious as they (we) are portrayed on the X-Files; and that, in any case, no one would ever prevent me from testifying honestly and accurately about the collection of evidence. I'm not sure I was all that convincing, but their questions did get me to thinking.

Okay, what would I do if I found evidence of extraterrestrial contact at a crime scene?

It was an interesting question ... and a cold beer made it seem even more interesting.

A couple hours later, I was back at my computer, humming to myself as I began working on the first chapter of FIRST EVIDENCE.

Twenty pages later, the creaking of our log home was starting to get noticeable, and I was giving some serious thought to locking the doors and loading the shotgun.

That was back in March of 1997. 13 months later, I sent the finished manuscript off to my Anne Groell, my editor at Bantam. It was fun book to write, but it turned out to be a much more chilling and edgy story than I expected.  Hope you enjoy it.


"A Stunner.  A gritty compelling novel I finished in one night.
Goddard is really good."  ---Earl Emerson

"Goddard nicely combines our instinctive fear of things glimpsed at the corner of the eye with the mind's rational habit of assembling evidence and making logical inferences to lead the reader into unfamiliar and unsettling territory.  In FIRST EVIDENCE, he gives the term 'inescapable conclusions' new meaning." ---Thomas Perry

"FIRST EVIDENCE has great suspense, creepy atmosphere, and convincing nuts-and-bolts realism.  Ken Goddard has created an interesting take on an old problem and presented it with a ricochet writing style and commonsense characters."  ---Kevin J. Anderson


Yeah, I know.  If I pay attention to the nice reviewers, then I really should take the other kind seriously too.  Maybe later, after I figure out where they all live ... 

click here to read chapter one of FIRST EVIDENCE


Well, the federal government didn't fire me or send me to counseling for writing FIRST EVIDENCE, and my editor, Anne Groell, was perfectly willing to see how far I could push the extraterrestrial evidence envelope, so she and I and the other folks at Bantam agreed to a sequel.  Which put me in an interesting dilemma: where could I take the story to give my dear readers a nice, chilling run for their hard-earned bucks?  Ideally, to a place where things are tense, confused, edgy ... and more than a little dangerous, of course, but how to do that?  As it turned out, digging around in the dusty memories of my days as a crime scene investigator provided the answer: out to the very edge of a hot crime scene, the outer perimeter, where the suspects are still lurking ... things frequently do go wrong ... and it's all too easy to make a dangerous and even fatal mistake.

So who came back for a second round?  My ever-stubborn and skeptical crime scene investigator, Detective-Sergeant Colin Cellars, of course ... along with his childhood friends: Bobby Dawson, Jody Catlin and Malcolm Byzor.  But the rules have changed for this intrepid foursome.  Facing their fears and adversaries back-to-back isn't going to work for them this time.  The rapidly accumulating evidence suggests a terrifying possibility: that the retrievers --- the fearsome creatures Allesandra warned about --- are here, and closing in fast.  Bad news for Colin and his friends, especially when they discover their only real chance to survive is to stay apart from each other, and face their worst fears alone ...

click here to read chapter one of OUTER PERIMETER


Is done, finally ... and I should explain that the third book in my Colin Cellars (First Evidence) series came about because
a friend sent me a book titled 'THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC' (The Science of a Human Obsession) by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. To say I found the book fascinating barely describes my feelings ... although I have to confess that a goodly part of my fascination dealt with the fact the Levitin was a rock musician who decided to begin studying neuroscience (just as the former rock musician friend who sent me the book had done), and ended up at UCSD with Dr. Watson of DNA-discovery fame a year or so before I was there. In fact, the book describes his interaction with Watson in a small library/conference room that I was studying in a year or so later ... so I felt a weird sense of 'kinship' with Levitin, even though my own knowledge of neuroscience and music is, to put it mildly, minimal.

Another reason I was fascinated: several years ago, at the suggestion of another (author-type) friend, I started using music as a way of quickly 'getting into the flow' of writing -- a common problem of most authors I know who are frustrated by the time it takes them to actually get their creative processes going once they plant themselves in front of their computers. Note: I pay no attention to my author friends who write their manuscripts with pens, pencils or typewriters, figuring that anyone who is that masochistic probably has other problems that I don't want to dwell on either.

Anyway, I quickly discovered that 60's rock music played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra works great for me ... no vocals, just the wonderful music! I've got 3 DVDs of their classic rock songs that I mix before playing so my brain doesn't anticipate the next song. All I have to do is pull up my latest manuscript on the computer, put of the stereo headphones, hit 'PLAY' ... and 30 seconds later, I'm deep into my writing. Have no idea why this works (my theory is that the lazy part of my brain that really doesn't want to write -- because writing is actually hard work -- quits complaining because it's soothed by the music), but I don't really care as long as it does.

So why are rock musicians (at least, presumably, the ones who haven't fried their brains with an assortment of illicit/home-made drugs) drawn to neuroscience? After reading Levitin's book and talking with my friend, it seems apparent that their possession of 'perfect pitch' is the thing that drives them to figure out how and why the brain obsesses on music. So what they do in the way of research is hook up a test subject to a fMRI (a machine that, among other things, measures the change in blood flow to specific areas of the brain), put on different types of music, and thereby learn how difference parts of the human brain respond to rhythm, tone, beat, resonance and all of the other components of what we call 'music.' And then they branch out into researching how music (even a couple of notes) can trigger memories much in the way that smells do, only musical notes seem to have far more complexity (see rhythm, tone, beat, resonance, etc) ... the idea being if you hear a couple of notes with the precise set of 'harmonics', it can trigger a memory of a song you heard played many years ago.

All of the above was suddenly interesting to me because I was trying to figure out how to write FINAL DISPOSITION  in a way that provided some crucial suspense and uneasy anticipation --- difficult because an awful lot was given away in the first two books --- when I realized that it would work great if my hero, Henry Culver, woke up with a huge void in his memory ... which allowed me to use music and the sound of familiar voices to gradually trigger his past memories and help keep him alive and more-or-less upright to the finale.

This also gave me an opportunity to add a sensuous nurse with a very resonant voice into the mix, along with an off-the-wall-nutso radio host, a hellfire-and-damnation televangelist who froths at the very idea of visiting ETs, a homeless vet with an ear for voices, and a bunch of crazy Oregon folks who really want to believe. It was a lot of fun to write. Hope you all enjoy it.

Unfortunate side note: FINAL DISPOSITION is currently only available as a eBook (via, & iTunes); but my literary agent is hopeful of finding an agreeable publisher to print it out in paperback form some day.

Click here to read the first two chapters of Final Disposition

in extremis



Back in April of 2006, my literary agent called and asked if I'd be interested in continuing a series of original novels based on the CBS-TV show CSI Las Vegas and published by Pocket Books.  She knew that I'd been an informal advisor to the show (on wildlife-related evidence) for a few years, but she also knew that I didn't watch the show because actions of the main characters --- in terms of engaging with the suspects --- were pretty unrealistic. 

As a crime scene investigator for almost 40 years, I'd done everything I could to avoid the suspects at the scenes.  My job was to work the scene and collect the evidence in an unbiased and unemotional manner, not to confront and/or interrogate the suspects.

But I also had to admit that I liked watching William Pedersen as an actor, and enjoyed his portrayal of Gil Grissom.  It was just too much work trying to 'suspend disbelief' in watching the episodes ... and besides, I didn't have time to watch prime time TV.  I had books to write ... and, admittedly, a ranch to take care of, movies to watch and wine to drink, but those were separate problems.

My literary agent then reminded me that an awful lot of people did watch the show, and --- more importantly from her and my point of view --- bought the related books.

So I talked with Ed Schlesinger, the Pocket Book editor responsible for the CSI/Las Vegas book series, and discussed the idea that if he hired me to continue the series previously written by Max Collins, I'd like to make the characters a tad more realistic.  Ed understood, and promised to do his best to find the proper balance between my concerns, the well-established characters, and the popularity of the TV series.  Even better, he had a great idea for the book title:  IN EXTREMIS.  All I had to do was come up with a couple of vivid crime scenes, an underlying plot, a story arc, and one or two memorable bad guys.  And, to make things a bit easier, he'd send me the DVD sets of episodes so that I could catch up on the developing 'voices' of the characters.

I was busy at the time trying to get scuba certified so that I could be part of an international team tasked with developing CSI techniques to investigate damaged coral reefs; but I managed to put together a detailed treatment before I flew to Cozumel.  A week later, I returned to my Cozumel hotel room after a very memorable (and somewhat scary) cave dive to find a message from Ed: CBS-TV had approved my treatment.  The writing could begin.

IN EXTREMIS turned out to a fun --- and relatively easy --- book to write; but I had to constantly refer to the DVD episodes to keep the 'voices' on track.  And there was a point in the story when Ed advised me that Greg Sanders, one of the younger CSI characters, had to be portrayed a bit more 'hot and sassy.'  Having little-to-no idea what he was talking about, I quickly consulted my daughter and granddaughter ... both of whom, as it turned out, had a very good understanding of the terms and were perfectly happy to help educate father/grandfather.

So Greg became a bit more hot and sassy, and the whole team (that I couldn't actually harm too badly in my story) certainly did their fair share of suffering at the scenes.  The book was released to the bookstores in October, 2007.

Oh, and there's more info on the writing of IN EXTREMIS in the interview I did with Shane Sanders for his TV-CSI-based website ModernDaySherlock.     

Click here to read the second chapter of IN EXTREMIS