Category Archives: Yucca Publishing

Review: Courting Death by Paul J. Heald

Title: Courting Death by Paul J. Heald
Clarkeston Chronicles Book Three
Publisher: Yucca Publishing
Genre: Historical (late 80s), Mystery
Length: 328 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author


From an internationally recognized law professor comes the third legal thriller in an exciting mystery series, the Clarkeston Chronicles.

Courting Death finds Melanie Wilkerson (from Cotton, book two of the Clarkeston Chronicles) and Arthur Hughes working uncomfortably together in the chambers of a famous federal judge. While Melanie neglects her duties as a law clerk to investigate the mysterious death of a young woman in the courthouse five years earlier, Arthur wades through the horrific habeas corpus appeals of two prisoners: an infamous serial killer and a pathetic child murder.

Melanie, a Georgia native who returns from law school in the Northeast, hoped to establish a legal reputation that will eclipse her beauty pageant queen past, which she is now desperate to disown. Arthur is a bright but naive Midwesterner who is rapidly seduced by the small Georgia college town of Clarkeston which, to his surprise, comes with an exotic and attractive landlady. The cohort of federal court clerks is completed by Phil Jenkins, a Stanford graduate from San Francisco who tries his best to balance the personalities of his volatile colleagues.

Living and working in bucolic Clarkeston comes with a price. In Courting Death, Arthur, Melanie, and Phil are confronted with the extremes of human mortality, both in and outside the legal system, in ways that they could never have expected or prepared for.


In Courting Death, the third outing in the Clarkeston Chronicles, Paul J. Heald offers an intriguing glimpse into the inner workings of the federal judicial system.

Melanie Wilkerson, Arthur Hughes and Phil Jenkins are excited for the opportunity to work as law clerks for a legendary federal judge.  Their cases run the gamut from writing mundane briefs to life or death appeals from prisoners on death row.  Arthur views his first habeas corpus appeal of a prolific serial killer dispassionately while Phil finds it difficult to set aside his personal feelings on the death penalty.  Having sailed through the process on his first death row appeal relatively unscathed, Arthur wrestles with the second  habeas corpus appeal for a death row inmate whose conviction is not as cut and dried as it first appears.  At the same time, Phil has the unenviable task of finding a legal precedence that will stay the execution of a decorated war veteran.  Meanwhile, Melanie is distracted by puzzling death of law clerk, Carolyn Bastaigne.  Five years earlier, Carolyn fell to her death while working late one evening at the courthouse.  Although her death was ruled accidental, Melanie cannot shake the feeling there is much more to the story than has been revealed.   At the end of the three clerks’ tenure, their lives will be forever changed by their experiences as they discover the justice system is not always fair nor is it easy to remain impartial when a prisoner’s life is at stake.

Arthur has his future all mapped out for himself when he begins working as clerk for the Judge.  His first case does not challenge his viewpoints overly much and he effortlessly maintains his objectivity while writing his brief.  The outcome of the stay of execution is expected and he easily puts the case behind him.  The next habeas corpus appeal is nowhere near as straight forward and he is somewhat stymied the Judge’s cryptic advice.  Arthur’s personal life is also rather unsettled  as his family faces a tragedy and his relationship with his landlady Suzanne Garfield hits an unexpected snag.

Melanie is hoping her career in law will finally prove to everyone that she is more than just a pretty face.  With a keen intellect and  an analytical mind, she has no trouble writing briefs.  However, with  her curiosity piqued by Carolyn’s death, she is having trouble staying on task.  The further she digs into the case, the more convinced she is that Carolyn might have been murdered.  Although there is very little evidence to prove her theory, Melanie tenaciously keeps searching for answers, but once she learns the truth, will she be able to find justice for Carolyn?

Phil is surprised to discover how difficult it is to keep his own beliefs from influencing his work with the Judge.  He and Arthur are often on opposite sides of issues yet they do not allow their disagreements to affect their friendship.  Deeply troubled by a stay of execution appeal he has been assigned, will Phil find a legal maneuver that will save the prisoner’s life?

Courting Death by Paul J. Heald is an insightful addition to the Clakeston Chronicles.  The cases presented are quite fascinating as are the legal procedures associated with each brief.  Fans of legal thrillers and mysteries do not want to miss this novel which provides a very thought-provoking and sometimes disquieting behind the scenes perspective of the justice system.

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Filed under Clarkeston Chronicles, Courting Death, Historical, Historical (80s), Mystery, Paul Heald, Rated B, Review, Yucca Publishing

Review: Cotton by Paul Heald

Title: Cotton by Paul Heald
Clarkeston Chronicles Series Book Two
Publisher: Yucca Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating:B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


When new evidence arises in a cold case, can Professor Hopkins refrain from delving into a newfound world of corruption, vice, and danger?

Stanley Hopkins cannot resist the invitation from a honey-voiced US attorney asking him to track down the source of photographs of a young dance major abducted five years earlier from her apartment in Clarkeston, Georgia. A journalist has stumbled across newly posted pictures of Diana Cavendish on the Internet, apparently taken just days before she disappeared with her boyfriend.

While Stanley deals with vexing personal problems and scrambles to identify the owner of the website that acquired the photos, small-town journalist James Murphy and federal prosecutor Melanie Wilkerson uncover new evidence of the crime—and the cover-up—that ranges far beyond the confines of the victim’s quaint Georgia college town.

This second installment of the Clarkeston Chronicles presents new challenges for Hopkins that take him far from the California base he established in Death in Eden and introduces him to a fascinating group of collaborators who will anchor him in small-town Georgia.


Cotton by Paul Heald is an intriguing mystery about a cold case in small Georgia town.  Although this second installment in the Clarkeston Chronicles series still features college professor Stan Hopkins, two newcomers to the series play major roles during the investigation into the disappearances of Diana Cavendish and Jacob Granville.

Newspaper reporter James Murphy reported extensively on Diana’s case five years earlier so when he runs across a photo of her on a website featuring bikini-clad beauties, his curiosity is immediately piqued. Believing the local police failed to adequately investigate her initial disappearance and tried to cover-up her boyfriend Jacob’s possible involvement in the case, he reports his discovery to federal prosecutor Melanie Wilkerson.  Agreeing to see if she can track down the source of the photo, Melanie runs into a dead end and soon receives a warning to leave the case alone.  Needing help tracking down the information about the uploaded photo, Melanie reaches out to Professor Stan Hopkins to track down the owner of the website.  When the case takes an international turn, Murphy, Hopkins and Wilkerson are stunned when they uncover a shocking conspiracy close to home.

A deacon in his church with a troubled marriage, James is embarrassed to have to admit he was looking at scantily clad women but he has no choice but to report his discovery.  He believes Diana deserves justice but he also knows local police will not welcome his renewed interest in the unsolved case.  His search for answers takes him to the local Episcopal church where the previous priest Ernest Rodgers (now deceased) was firmly ensconced in Jacob’s corner.  Finding an unexpected ally in his replacement Father “Thor” Carter, James hopes to find new clues about Jacob in Rodgers’ long abandoned papers.  Working closely with Melanie, they uncover some puzzling information about Granville, but they continue to have more questions than answers.

Melanie’s hard work has paid off with her promotion to federal prosecutor but she is beginning to feel the lack of a personal life.  Although she does not have jurisdiction in the Cavendish case, she does not see any harm in doing a little off the books poking around in the case.  Perplexed by some of the information she finds, Melanie continues helping James with his investigation after a troubling phone call seems to trigger suspicious activity. Hoping a fresh set of eyes might provide a different perspective on old information, James and Melanie stumble across some previously overlooked details but will this discovery aid them in their quest for locating the missing couple?

After suffering a tragic loss, Stan Hopkins eagerly agrees to try to track down the owner of the website where James spotted the pictures of Diana.  He cleverly devises a plan that yields what could be a vital clue and he impulsively follows this lead to a small town in Spain.  After James and Melanie discover Jacob’s bewildering connection to the World Trade Organization, Stan then travels to Geneva where he finds startling information that  breaks the case wide open.

Cotton is another meticulously plotted, complex mystery by Paul Heald that quickly escalates from a simple small town murder investigation to a shocking conspiracy involving the cotton industry, trade agreements and US politics.  An informative and exciting addition to the Clarkeston Chronicles series, the introduction of new characters and shift in locations help  keep the series fresh and interesting while the storyline is a somewhat shocking exposé of political misconduct and corruption.  It is an absolutely outstanding mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss.

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Filed under Clarkeston Chronicles, Contemporary, Cotton, Mystery, Paul Heald, Rated B+, Review, Yucca Publishing

Review: Death in Eden by Paul Heald

death in edenTitle: Death in Eden by Paul Heald
Publisher: Yucca Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 344 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author


He wanted to do research, but what he ended up with was a murder investigation—murder deep within the porn industry.

Desperate to complete the last chapter of his law thesis on workplace dynamics for women to secure his tenure, Professor Stanley Hopkins stumbles on an old close college friend, Donald Johansson, who has plenty of female employees. The problem is that Donald is a porn video king. Taking his wife to California’s seedy city of Burbank to help with taping interviews (and to protect his reputation with the university, not to mention his marriage), Stanley realizes he is in way over his head the moment a leading porn star is brutally killed in Donald’s office during a party.

Donald is arrested and pleads with Stanley to play legal detective. Stanley’s problems are compounded, as playing detective for a porn king puts him on thin ice with the university trustees, gets him in hot water with the police, dangles temptation in front of him, and puts his marriage at serious risk. As he solicits the help of eager porn stars and scrabbles for clues to help defend his old friend, Stanley feels the walls closing in on him more and more each minute.

Death in Eden is a gripping page-turner and a darkly funny debut novel.

The Review:

Death in Eden by Paul Heald is a delightfully unique and fiendishly clever mystery that is quite riveting. Set against the backdrop of the porn industry, a college professor finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation when an old college friend is arrested for the beating death of his brightest star. An overall witty and intelligent whodunit that mystery lovers are sure to love.

Professor Stan Hopkins is a sociology professor who needs to complete his latest book to make tenure. His final chapter recently hit a major snag but inspiration strikes when he discovers his old college pal Don Johansson is poised to bring the porn industry back into theaters. With his wife Angela at his side, Stan makes a trip to LA to interview actresses about their adult entertainment careers. But when Don is arrested for the brutal murder of Jade Delilah, Stan agrees to find the real killer.

Stan is happily married but a little dissatisfied with his career as a professor. He is laid back and content to take life as it comes. He is a pretty successful amateur sleuth and while he would like to exonerate Don, Stan is most interested in making sure Delilah’s killer is brought to justice-even if the murderer turns out to be his friend. With the LAPD convinced of Don’s guilt, Stan uncovers several viable suspects and with the help of porn actress Janet Stephens, they doggedly follow where the evidence leads.

Death in Eden is a fast paced and well-written novel with a well-developed cast of characters. The porn aspect of the storyline is tastefully written and very informative. The suspect pool is vast and Paul Heald does an excellent job obscuring the killer’s identity until the novel’s dramatic ending. It is an immensely intriguing mystery with a refreshing plot that I highly recommend to fans of police procedurals.


Filed under Contemporary, Death in Eden, Mystery, Paul Heald, Rated B+, Review, Yucca Publishing