Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Black Oil, Red Blood by Diane Castle

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Black Oil, Red Blood!

The thing about cancer is it’s hard to prove somebody gave it to you on purpose—but Chloe Taylor can prove it. In fact, she proves it for a living. She sues oil refineries that would rather save a buck than comply with safety regulations designed to do important things like, you know, keep people alive.

Chloe had a successful career until circumstances forced her to move to the bass-ackwards town of Kettle, Texas (human population: 4,000; gun population: 34,356). Big Oil industry giant PetroPlex employs half of Kettle’s population, and there’s no question the judge in the town’s got oil stains on his hands. It’s no wonder she’s been on a losing streak lately. She suspects she’s been litigating on an uneven playing field, but when her star expert witness turns up dead less than 48 hours before a make-or break hearing, she knows.

What she doesn’t know is the key piece of information that got her expert killed. It turns out PetroPlex is harboring a shocking secret—one that has the potential to skyrocket gasoline prices, spark an energy market meltdown, and trigger riots, chaos, death, and destruction on a global scale. Chloe must discover the secret and expose the villains before she is permanently silenced, all while juggling a troublesome ex-fiancé and a tantalizing new flame along the way.  

Diane Castle is the pseudonym of a Texas attorney whose practice experience includes assisting plaintiffs with wrongful death and personal injury cases against Big Oil giants such as ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, BP, and ConocoPhillips. Ms. Castle has published short fiction under a different name, and she has also written a stage play that was translated into German, produced in a castle near Munich, and sold out three seasons. Prior to her career as an attorney, Ms. Castle was a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News. She also feels privileged to have been honored with two awards for humor and satire and one award for literary criticism. She lives in Dallas with her husband and three dogs: Gracie, Lucy, and Mouse.

5 of 5 stars false
Chloe Taylor is a small-town lawyer who is in the middle of a lawsuit with Big Oil. When her expert witness turns up dead a day before the trial, Chloe begins to realize there may be more to the case than she originally thought. Enlisting the help of detective Nash and her paralegal, Miles, to help her with the case, Chloe quickly realizes that is in over her head.

The first thing that drew me into this book right away was the author's writing style. It is neat and clean, and the story flows smoothly. The second thing that drew me in was the characters. I loved Chloe's sarcastically funny personality, which made it really fun to be in her head. I also enjoyed Nash (the strong and silent type, *swoon*) and Chloe's reactions to him and Miles…Oh, how I love Miles!

Though this book was about a serious topic, the author did such a great job at making it fun to read. There was, of course, a lot of legal information in the story, but the author did an excellent job of making it understandable to the average person. I also liked that we got some inside information on the case in the form of other key player's points of view once in a while. It made the plot that much more interesting.

This book was an edge-of-your-seat type of read, and it had everything you could want from a great mystery/thriller, including greed, corruption, murder, conspiracy, coverups, and of course the sexy good-guy detective and a heroine who fights for justice, all sprinkled with wit and humor.

See my review on Goodreads!

What was your main source of inspiration for the story behind Black Oil, Red Blood?
I'm an attorney, and I worked for a while at a law firm that sues big oil companies for wrongful death. There's an ingredient in crude oil and gasoline called benzene that causes a certain type of leukemia, and it's very common for oil refinery workers or other people in the industry to die from it. This is outrageous. These are completely preventable deaths if the right kind of safety equipment and procedures are employed. So when I created Chloe Taylor, I wanted her to have the same job I had as a plaintiff's attorney, going after the big guys who often get caught prioritizing profit over lives. Chloe, however, is not me, and I haven't actually had the same kind of experiences she's had. For example, I've never fallen in love with a detective or blackmailed a judge, and also, no one is trying to kill me. (That I know of.)

How much and what kind of research was necessary to write your book?
Well, if you count law school. . .

How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
In a lot of ways. My family is made up of good 'ol Texas folks, and I've lived in Texas my whole life. But I'm a city girl, and I live in Dallas. If you're watching GCB, then you have a pretty good idea about what that's like. All that background definitely shows up in the book.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I really admire people who can write in ten and fifteen minute increments. This blows my mind, and I wish I had that kind of focus. For me, it really takes me about 20 minutes to get into the creative zone, so I schedule huge blocks of time where I know I can sit and write without being interrupted.

Who is your favorite author and why?
Oooh, this is a good one. I LOVE Carole Nelson Douglas. I discovered her Irene Adler series (the only woman to outwit Sherlock Holmes, recently played by Rachel McAdams on the silver screen) when I was working at a bookstore in high school. Back in those days, I was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, and he was not as cool then as he is now, believe me. I devoured the books, which were my favorite ever. And THEN, get this, I found out she lived in Dallas-Fort Worth. So one day she was judging a poetry-writing contest at a local bookstore and I totally stalked her (in a friendly, non-creepy kind of way, I promise!). I told her I was available if she needed an assistant, and she flippin HIRED me! We've been close friends ever since, and she is still, of course, my favorite author.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
Read, of course! I also really like to cuddle up with my dogs by the fireplace in the winter or lay by my dad's pool in the summer.

Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
You know, I've been approached by a film studio and a scriptwriter asking about film rights to the book. Nothing has been negotiated as of right now, but I would be over the moon if a movie were made. (Gosh, I'm almost afraid to say that out loud. I might jinx it.) That would be the ultimate dream come true.

What three words would you use to describe Black Oil, Red Blood?
Quirky, Adventurous, Thrilling

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
I just started using Scrivener, and honestly, I don't know how I ever lived without it. Other necessary tools include a big comforter to hide under when bad reviews come your way, and tequila for when you get the good ones. (Although I suppose tequila works for the bad ones, too.)

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  1. This is a wonderful, quirky thriller, get your copy soon!! Sheri, thank you for another fabulous interview. It's good to know more about Ms. Castle!