Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gary Ponzo - A Touch of Malice is featured in the HBS Mystery Reader's Circle today.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Author's Blog: Strong Scenes
Twitter: @AuthorPonzo
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Author Description:
Author Gary Ponzo began his writing career over a decade ago by writing short stories. He quickly discovered a knack for the short form. In just five years he'd published seven short stories in various publications, two of which were nominated for the very prestigious Pushcart Prize.

His first novel, "A Touch of Deceit," took five years to write and one to pick clean. The story was born from his childhood experiences working in his father's candy store in Brooklyn, NY. His father was Sicilian and became friendly with some local members of a different kind of Sicilian family. Since Gary was just fifteen at the time, these family members would make sure he was protected whenever he would work late at night by himself. He soon discovered a side to the mafia not many people knew. It was these relationships which caused him to write about Sicilian FBI agent, Nick Bracco, who recruits his mafia cousin to chase down the world's most feared terrorist.

"A Touch of Deceit," went on to win the 2009 Southwest Writers Novel Contest, Thriller category. He is currently working on the 5th book in the Nick Bracco series as well as trying to create world peace in his spare time. Gary currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Jennifer and two children, Jessica and Kyle.

A Touch of Malice

A Nick Bracco Thriller

Author: Gary Ponzo


From Award-Winning and Pushcart-Prize nominated author Gary Ponzo comes another Nick Bracco thriller.

"These Nick Bracco books are really tight engaging thrillers. Great stuff," Creighton Rothenberger, screenwriter for the blockbuster movie, "Olympus has Fallen."

While filming a documentary, the President's brother is captured deep within the Amazon Rainforest by a Colombian cartel. The President calls the one person who has the underground criminal contacts needed to fight this type of vicious enemy. FBI agent, Nick Bracco. Once again Nick relies on his mafia-linked cousin Tommy to help with the operation. When Tommy recruits an assassin to join the rescue team, the rollercoaster comes off the track and everyone becomes a target.


The pit viper slithered up the side of the tree and paused to glare at Trent Merrick with sinister eyes. The tree limb creaked as Trent crouched lower, trying to stay balanced while his face dripped with sweat. The humidity in the Amazon was already unbearable, but Trent had worked up a lather attempting to stay still. The viper was one of the most lethal creatures in this part of Colombia, especially when the nearest medical facility was a two hour hike away. The real problem for Trent, however, was his position. He was over thirty feet high and had to avoid jagged tree limbs all the way to the ground.

The snake resumed his upward trek and Trent frantically searched above him to see how much room he had, but it was an ephemeral solution. It would only add seconds to his life. Once again the snake stopped and seemed to assess his prey. The viper’s forked tongue slashed out several times to judge Trent’s proximity. One bite would cause a person to bleed from the eyes and reach a critical condition within twenty minutes.

Trent had an even more serious problem brewing just a hundred feet down the path from his position in the tree. There were a dozen Colombian soldiers with fatigues and assault rifles surrounding a small opening in the rainforest. A glimpse of light peeked through the dense canopy of trees exposing two men who were obviously meeting in this remote part of the world for clandestine purposes. The soldiers were scanning the perimeter searching for prying eyes. The thick foliage offered Trent decent coverage, but the viper was soon going to put an end to his hideout and probably his life.

The snake reared its head back slightly and froze. Trent felt his phone slipping from his sweaty hand and as he clutched it, he glanced at the picture he’d just taken from his vantage point. The two men in the photo were exchanging pleasantries, but one man was clearly in charge and the other a mere servant. The photo showed a very one-sided relationship. The subservient man was older and dressed in a suit and tie. He was on his knees bending forward as the younger man held out his hand for the gentleman to touch and bring to his lips. The well-dressed man on his knees was Colombian President, Carlos Santoro. His bald head and famous scar across his cheek was unmistakable. The hand he kissed belonged to the most feared cartel leader in the country. Pablo Moreno.

Trent had snapped several photos of the meeting, the president on his knees kissing Moreno’s hand over and over, while Moreno looked down at the man, prolonging the demeaning act to prove his superiority. If Trent wanted, the photos could go viral and be shown globally within minutes of its posting. He’d paid extra to have a satellite phone, but had no intention of using it for anything but lifesaving means. All he cared about now was surviving long enough to see his pregnant wife again.

The viper, however, didn’t care much for politics or families. It saw Trent as a threat. Nothing more. Just a warm-blooded animal who needed to be eliminated. He slithered higher until reaching the same level as Trent. The snake’s head slowly curled around the trunk of the tree with his tongue rapidly jutting from his mouth.

Trent glimpsed down at his knife on the jungle floor which had slipped from his humidity drenched hands just minutes earlier. That’s when he spotted the soldier using the tip of his assault rifle to brush away the foliage as he headed in Trent’s direction.

The snake was now fully onto the thick limb. He coiled the lower half of his body into a tight circle while his head stretched up and his tongue slashed from his mouth. An attack position.

Trent crept farther out on the limb, buying more time. As the branch groaned from the stress of his movement, the soldier swiveled his head searching for the foreign noise. Sweat dripped from Trent’s chin. He was about to throw his phone at the snake, when a thought occurred to him. He desperately pushed a couple of buttons on his phone. The snake reared its head back, about to strike.

It startled Trent.

His foot slipped.

As he fell from the tree, he saw the one word which he desperately needed to see before slamming to the jungle floor.


A Touch of Deceit

Nick Bracco Series #1

Author: Gary Ponzo
Book Trailer: A Touch of Deceit


Winner of the Southwest Writers Novel Contest, Thriller category. FBI agent Nick Bracco can't stop a Kurdish terrorist from firing missiles at random homes across the country. The police can't stand watch over every household, so Bracco recruits his cousin Tommy to help track down this terrorist. Tommy, however, is in the Mafia. Oh yeah, it gets messy fast. As fast as you can turn the pages.

A Touch of Deceit has been the #1 Ranked Police Prodecural Kindle book on Amazon!

Stephen Carpenter, the creator of NBC's hit series Grimm, says, "Couldn't put it down and now I want more!"


There was a time when Nick Bracco would walk down Gold Street late at night and young vandals would scatter. The law was present and the guilty took cover. West Baltimore was alive with crime, but Gold Street remained quarantined, reserved for the dirtiest of the dirty.

That’s how Nick remembered it anyway. Before he left for the Bureau to fight terrorists. Now, the narrow corridor of row houses felt closer to him and the slender strip of buckled sidewalkechoed his footsteps like a sentry announcing his presence. It wasn’t his turf anymore. He was a foreigner.

Nick scrutinized the landscape and searched for something out of place. The battered cars seemed right, the graffiti, even the shadows seemed to darken the proper corners. But something was missing. There were no lookouts on the concrete stairwells.The ubiquitous bass line of hip-hop was absent. The stillness reminded him of jungle birds falling silent in the prelude to danger.The only comfort came from the matching footsteps beside him. As usual, Matt McColm was by his side. They’d been partners for ten years and were approaching the point of finishing each other’s sentences.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Matt said.

“Did I mention that I don’t have a good feeling about this?”

“Uh, huh.” Matt tightened his collar against the autumn chill and worked a piece of gum with his jaw. “That’s your theme song.”

“Really? Don’t you ever get a bad feeling about a call?”

“All the time.”

“How come you never tell me?”

“I’m going to feed the flames of paranoia?”

They walked a little further in silence. It got darker with every step. The number of working streetlights dwindled.

“Did you just call me paranoid?” Nick said.

Matt looked straight ahead as he walked; his casual demeanor caused him to appear aloof, but Nick knew better. Even at half-mast, Matt’s eyes were alert and aware.

“Maybe paranoid is too strong a word,” Matt said.

“I would hope so.”

“More like Mother-henish.”

“That’s better,” Nick said. “By the way, did you eat your broccoli tonight?”

“Yes, Dear.”

Their pace slowed as they got deeper into projects. Low-lying clouds gave the night a claustrophobic feel.

“This guy asked for you specifically?” Matt said.

Nick nodded.

“That bother you a little?” Matt asked.

“No,” Nick said. “That bothers me a lot.”

Up ahead, a parked car jostled. They both stopped. Neither of them spoke. They split up. By the book. Years of working together coming into play. Matt crouched and crept into the street. Nick stayed on the sidewalk and gave the car a wide berth. In seconds Matt became invisible. The car maintained a spastic rhythm. It was subtle, but Nick understood the familiar motion even before he flashed his penlight into the back seat and saw a pair of young eyes pop up through the grimy window. They were wide open and reacted like a jewel thief caught with a handful of pearls.

The kid’s hair was disheveled and his shirt was half-off. His panting breath caused the inside of the window to fog up. He wasn’t alone. A pair of bare legs straddled his torso.

From the other side of the vehicle, Matt emerged from the shadows and charged the car with his pistol out front. He was just a few yards away when Nick held up his hand and said, “No.”

Matt stopped dead. He must’ve seen the grin on Nick’s face and realized the situation. He slowly holstered his Glock and took time to catch his breath.

Nick heard the kid’s voice through the closed window. “I ain’t doing nuthin’, man.”

Nick clicked off his penlight and slipped it back into his jacket. He smiled. “It may be nothing, but you sure worked up a sweat doing it.”

When Matt fell back into step next to his partner, Nick said, “You seemed a little . . . Uh, paranoid?”

Matt returned to nonchalant mode. “Kids that young shouldn’t be doing the nasty out in the street.”

“Consider their role models,” Nick said. “You can’t change the tide with an oar.”

“Pardon me, Professor Bracco. Who said that one—Nietzsche?”

“I just made it up.”

“It sounded like it.”

They slowed their pace until Nick stopped in front of an old brick building with a worn, green awning above the entrance. Nick gestured down a dark flight of stairs where a giant steel door stood menacingly secure. “There it is.”

Matt nodded. “You bring me to all the best spots.”

When he was certain of their solitude, Nick descended the stairs. Matt followed, keeping an eye on their rear. In the darkness, Nick barely made out Matt’s silhouette.

“Listen,” Nick said, “it’ll be easier if we don’t have to use our creds, but let’s see how it goes.

I don’t want to say any more than I have to, and you say nothing at all. Just be the silent brute that you are. Capisce?”


“If we get lucky, I’ll see a familiar face.” Nick raised his fist, hovered it in front of the door, then stopped to sniff the air. “You wearing aftershave?”

“A little.”

“You have a date after this?”

“Uh huh.”



“Who makes a date with you at midnight?”

“Veronica Post.”

“First date?”


“At midnight?”

“She’s a waitress. She doesn’t get off until then.”

In the murky darkness, Nick sighed. He turned to face the door and, just like a thousand times before, he said, “Ready?”

He couldn’t see the response, but he heard Matt unfasten the flap to his holster. Matt was ready.

Nick used his wedding band hand to pound on the metal door. He shifted his weight as they waited. Nick heard Matt chewing his gum.

Nick said, “Midnight, huh?”

A rectangular peephole slid open allowing just enough light through to see a dark face peering out. The face was so large the opening supported only enough room for one of his eyes.

“Yeah?” the man grunted.

Nick leaned close to the opening so the man could see his face. The opening quickly slid shut.

They stood in the silence while Nick thought of his next move.

“He seemed nice,” Matt said.

The clang of locks unbolting was followed by the door squeaking open. It reminded Nick of an old horror movie.

The large black man wore a large black shirt that hung over his jeans and covered enough space to hide a rocket launcher.The man ignored Nick and gave Matt the once over.

Matt gave him the stone cold glare of a pissed-off FBI agent. No one did it better.

Then the man turned his attention to Nick. His head was round and clean-shaven. His expressionless face seemed to be set in cement.

Nick spread open his hands and raised his eyebrows. “Well?”
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Gary Ponzo is in the HBS Mystery Book Reader's Circle.

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