Category Archives: Last Exit In New Jersey

Genre Stereotypes and Gender Double-Standards

I’ll preface this post by stating that I’m well aware, as with everything else in life, there are exceptions to what I’m about to discuss, and those exceptions are a good thing. But a stereotype, by definition, is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified concept of a particular type of person or thing. And when that thing is a book, when it comes to reading, a majority of readers will make choices based upon some basic, commonly accepted conventions of plot and formula for a specific genre. For example, whether tame or steamy, romances revolve primarily around two people who initially can’t see eye-to-eye but ultimately discover their romantic love for one another, and the story will end on a happy, optimistic note. Fantasy novels usually occur somewhere imaginary, and while they often include subplots ranging from mysterious to romantic, magic of some sort or another is a key element. Readers turn to erotica primarily to be turned on. They pick up cozies, expecting a light, even humorous mystery with bloodless, off-screen murders, minimal sex and violence, featuring an amateur, often female sleuth in a small-town setting where she can turn to family, friends and authorities, though often she’s dismissed as being ‘nosy and meddlesome.’ Hobbies such as knitting, baking, and scrapbooking are popular themes. Thrillers, memoirs, science fiction – the list goes on and each of these genres carries with it certain accepted guidelines.

And then there’s hard-boiled. Lean, unsentimental, gritty. A genre where the protagonist goes head-to-head with the ugly realities of a dangerous world, and they frequently go it alone. Faced with a darker side of life and forced to survive, they fight violence with violence, often far from the assistance or the eyes of the authorities. It’s a bloody, vicious world of “be tough or be killed.” And for decades, this world has been the domain of the American tough guy. Donald Westlake’s Parker and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee are superb characters and perfect examples: physically and emotionally scarred, square-jawed, hard-hitting, hard-drinking and hard-loving men of action, cynical, calculating, and capable. The “shoot first, ask later” types who operate outside the law and follow their own moral compasses. And in these tales, the majority of the female characters fall into certain specific roles. They’re either a love interest, a victim in need of rescue and/or avenging, a femme fatale, or all of the above.  And often, they have a low survival rate.

Again, I know exceptions exist, but what I’m discussing here is the stereotype of the traditional hard-boiled mystery. The stereotype that leads some readers to see the word ‘Hardboiled’ in a description and go into a book with certain gender-specific expectations. And conversely, for readers who see the protagonist’s age and gender, then expect a cozier story.  The first lines of the description should make it clear that isn’t the case. Nice young ladies really shouldn’t be dumping bodies at sea. Then again, that isn’t stopping Hazel Moran, and she can’t figure where anyone got the idea she was nice to begin with.

Despite the fact that she’s faced with a threat, even as she has been left no choice and it’s a case of kill or be killed, even as Hazel does whatever it takes to survive, protect herself and her family, refusing to be a victim, some readers have stated both in reviews and letters to me that they were shocked by the violence from this “young girl.” It seems ironic that within the setting of a more traditional hard-boiled with a more traditional (male) protagonist, these same actions wouldn’t so much as raise an eyebrow. In fact, they’d be expected and approved. Apparently, stepping outside the traditional, more accepted genre and gender formulas established generations earlier makes some readers uncomfortable, and double standards continue, even to this day.

Mayhem and balls!

Andrew Donaldson of The Times in Johannesburg, South Africa, had something concise and very nice to say about Last Exit:

IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK. . .

‘Last Exit in New Jersey’, by CE Grundler (Thomas & Mercer), R175

BRASH and antisocial, you’re going to love 20-year-old Hazel Moran, the heroine of Grundler’s debut. She drives trucks and sails boats but needs help with the people skills – especially when bad guys come looking for a relative about a missing trailer. Offbeat, darkly humorous fare with mayhem and balls.

Where did it go?

I unpublished Last Exit yesterday.

It was a strange feeling. Sales were starting to spike, both on the old edition and the pre-order March 6th edition, apparently fueled by Advance Read Copies currently out for review. It wasn’t something I had to do – it was my idea, and Jacque at Thomas & Mercer assured me that until the new edition was released I could keep selling the old one. But I felt that at this point, if an early buzz is building based on responses to the new edition, it was time to pull the original.

Getting closer…

I’d been looking forward to February, knowing that things would start to kick into high gear. And sure enough, just as I’m plotting and scheming my way into the start of book three, Evacuation Route, advance read copies, cover designs and release dates are coming in for the last two books. So here they are.

The very polished and re-edited edition of Last Exit in New Jersey will officially re-launch on March 6, 2012, and No Wake Zone is set for release on May 8, 2012.

Thomas & Mercer wanted to give Last Exit a new, grittier, more hard-boiled cover that hinted to the nautical angle of the story, and to keep a consistent look with both books. And while I was fond of my cover, with the actual Parkway sign for the title and hood of my old Dodge on the Parkway at 3 a.m., I think their design is a better match for the story.

Yesterday I received four concepts for No Wake Zone’s cover, and one really jumped out at me. I suggested a minor change that they are currently addressing, and I should have a finalized cover in the coming days, and we’ve finalized the promo text as well. So for all of you wondering just what happens after the conclusion of Last Exit, here’s a hint:

Hazel Moran, the tough truck-driving amateur sleuth introduced in C.E. Grundler’s debut novel, Last Exit in New Jersey, returns in this dark and twisting sequel.

Seven years ago, someone destroyed Jake Stevenson’s dreams when they murdered his fiancée, Helen Matthews and her family. Since then, tracking down the one responsible – finding them and making them pay — has consumed his life. Stevenson thinks the truth behind the killer’s identity and motive might still lie in the most elusive place – buried within the mind of a semi-mad man. But Stevenson may have found the means to access Hammon’s suppressed memories, and cleverly he draws Hazel into his hunt. Can she trust Stevenson, or does he have a hidden agenda? Hazel has her suspicions — but she has her own reasons for playing along.

Hammon and Annabel also question Stevenson’s motives. To protect Hazel from becoming the next casualty of a forgotten history now repeating itself, they must retrace a treacherous path of deceit and murder. But Annabel thinks Hammon is going about everything entirely wrong, and she’s decided it’s her turn to start calling the shots, whether Hammon likes it or not. And when, again, someone very close to Hazel dies, she’s pushed to the edge. The facts all point to suicide, but Hazel isn’t buying that. She’s determined to prove it was murder, and she’s closing in on answers, only to find someone is changing the questions. No one she trusts will hear her out; they’re all certain she’s in denial and becoming potentially unstable. But when has presenting a serious threat to herself and others ever stopped Hazel?

As her hunt travels from New Jersey to a Manhattan rave and a vacant construction site outside LaGuardia Airport, it’ll take all of her tough, fearless, no-nonsense smarts to navigate a complex and dangerous trail of clues. How far will some people go to hide the truth? And how far will she go for vengeance?

Celebrating INDIE-pendence!

The 4th of July weekend is rapidly approaching, and once again I’m looking forward to my favorite holiday of the year. After all, what other holiday lets you barbeque and watch colorful explosions? (Alright. Anyone who knows me knows I celebrate Christmas the same way, but still, it’s not as warm and there are no fireflies at dusk.) And even though the boat is still ashore, this weekend I’ll be enjoying myself more than usual because I have so much to celebrate.  For me, this year’s 4th is more like Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled together!

Back when I was considering this whole ‘Independent Publishing’ path, it was a bit unnerving, wondering if I had made the right decision. But I can say now that the last few months have far exceeded anything I could have imagined and I’m thrilled by how quickly my writing has risen in popularity, gaining so many new readers. Even with an inexplicably mis-formated description (Amazon assures me they are working on correcting the issue,) for the last week Last Exit In New Jersey ranked among Amazon’s Top 100 Bestsellers, pushing me past the 10,000 copies sold milestone. Every review, every letter I receive, and even the fan-art (!!!) makes me even happier, further fueling my enthusiasm as I write No Wake Zone. So once again, thank you all!

And for any readers looking to discover some other great Indie books, be sure to check out the Declare Your Independence Indie Author Giveaway Carnival at What Book Is That! Through the month of July, there will be reviews and give-aways aplenty; the focus is on some amazing indie books and authors (including yours truly) and this is your chance to stock up on your summer reading while supporting us Indies.

Have a fun and safe 4th!

I’m officially FAMOUS!!!

Or perhaps, I should say Hazel is. She’s been spotted in DeviantArt!

Hazel by ~Sinister-Chocolate


Hazel Moran, from C.E. Grundler’s thriller novel, Last Exit in New Jersey. She is out and about, running into trouble, as usual. This is where she runs into a certain troubled yet endearing young man. But I won’t say more, just go read it!

Fan art! Real, genuine fan art!  This makes me so happy, and I love how this evocative illustration captures Hazel’s expression and attitude so perfectly.  Thank you, Sinister-Chocolate, for this wonderful compliment!

Pulp fiction!

last exit paperbacks
Yes, it’s official. Due to repeated requests, Last Exit In New Jersey is now available in PRINT! At last, all 250 pages of murder and mayhem neatly bound up in a beautiful full color cover, and no batteries required!