Sorrells, Walter (Lynn Abercrombie, Ruth Birmingham)
Sorrells, Walter (Lynn Abercrombie, Ruth Birmingham)
Born in Nashville, TN; married; wife's name Patti; children: Jake. Education: Haverford College, degree (history), 1985; earned J.D. Hobbies and other interests: Martial arts, sword-smithing, blues guitar, harmonica.
Home—Atlanta, GA. E-mail—[email protected]
Novelist. Formerly worked as a paralegal; Mystery Zone (Internet magazine), editor.
Mystery Writers of America (member, board of directors).
Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, for Atlanta Graves; Edgar Allan Poe Award and Shamus Award, both for Fulton County Blues; Top-Ten Mystery designation, Booklist, for Fake ID.
Power of Attorney, 1994.
Cry for Justice, Avon (New York, NY), 1994.
Will to Murder, 1996.
(With William J. Coughlin) Proof of Intent, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Silent Room (for young adults), Dutton (New York, NY), 2006.
First Shot, 2007.
"HUNTED" SERIES; YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS
Fake ID, Sleuth (New York, NY), 2005.
Club Dread, Sleuth Dutton (New York, NY), 2006.
YOUNG-ADULT NOVELIZATIONS; BASED ON TELEVISION SERIES "FLIGHT 29 DOWN"
Ten Rules, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2006.
Static, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2006.
(With Robert T. Sorrells) Scratch, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2006.
Survival, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2007.
On Fire, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2007.
(Under pseudonym Lynn Abercrombie) Blind Fear, 2008.
"SUNNY CHILDS" MYSTERY NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM RUTH BIRMINGHAM
Atlanta Graves, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Fulton County Blues, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Sweet Georgia, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Blue Plate Special, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Cold Trail, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Feet of Clay, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2006.
"COLD CASE THRILLER" MYSTERY NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM LYNN ABERCROMBIE
The Body Box, Pinnacle (New York, NY), 2005.
Blind Fear, Pinnacle (New York, NY), 2006.
Walter Sorrells, the Edgar Award-winning author of legal and crime thrillers, has a name that is not immediately recognizable to fans of his popular "Sunny Childs" mystery series. The reason: the series is published under the pseudonym Ruth Birmingham, one of several pen names employed by the prolific Georgia-based novelist. Under his own name, Sorrells has also gained a large following among teen readers through his "Hunted" series and his novelizations of the Flight 29 Down television series. When he is not writing, the author pursues his long-held interests in weaponry and the martial arts. In addition to studying aikido, Tai Chi, and Japanese Iaido and Shinkendo weapon art, Sorrells is a 3rd-degree black belt in Japanese Shito-ryu karate. In his spare time, he creates Japanese-styled knives and long blades in the backyard forge at his Atlanta home.
In 1995, while teaching English in Japan, Sorrells broke into the mystery field with the legal thriller Power of Attorney. Interestingly, although the Nashville native had, at this point, never lived in Atlanta, where the novel is set, he and his wife Patty now make the Georgia city their home. Although his first novel did not reach blockbuster status, it encouraged Sorrells to continue writing, and after Patty completed her own professional training, he decided to give himself two years to make a go as a novelist. His first "Sunny Childs" novel, Atlanta Graves, was published twenty months later.
In Atlanta Graves Childs, an intrepid private-eye, is running the Atlanta-based Peachtree Investigations firm for her seldom-seen boss, Gunnar Brushurd. Sunny's workday is complicated by problems both external—her "perp" is shot while she is investigating a stolen-
painting case—and internal. It seems that Gunnar has left the firm deeply in debt, and Sunny now finds she has four days in which to find a way to avoid bankruptcy. Praising Sunny as "an appealing lead," David Pitt added in Booklist that Sorrells's heroine is "tough, funny, likable, insecure, and smart." In BookBrowser online, Harriet Klausner cited Atlanta Graves for introducing "a terrific series that brings alive the mean streets of Atlanta."
The popular "Sunny Childs" series has continued to expand, and by 2006 it included the Edgar Award-winning Fulton County Blues as well as Blue Plate Special and Feet of Clay. In Fulton County Blues Sunny is again on the case, this time investigating the death of her late father's friend, a Vietnam War veteran. As Sunny begins to unearth long-hidden stories of wartime horror, one of the man's former comrades-in-arms is determined to keep these stories untold so they do not compromise his career path in the upper echelons of the Central Intelligence Agency. While the revealed wartime stories are "quite terrible and hard to comprehend," according to Mystery Reader online critic Martha Moore, Sorrells "makes his [protagonist's] plight believable and his character is richer when we discover he wasn't perfect. Sunny learns some things about the dark side of human nature, but she also discovers the meaning of family."
Feet of Clay finds Childs helping her younger sister, filmmaker Lee-Lee, shoot a documentary profiling a soon-to-be executed death-row inmate. When Lee-Lee is arrested shortly after arriving in the town where the condemned man's crimes took place, the two women realize that the true murderer may still be on the loose. "Solid dialogue, … entertaining characters and regional humor make this a fun, fast read," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor.
While fans of the "Sunny Childs" novels include highschool-aged mystery buffs, Sorrells' "Hunted" series, which includes Fake ID and Club Dread, were his first books specifically geared for teen readers. In Fake ID readers meet Chastity, a teen who lives on the run. The chameleon lifestyle Chass has shared with her single mom—they move every few years, and change their names in every new town they temporarily call home—has seemed so normal that the teen has never questioned why they live on the run; she does not even know her true name or the identity of her father. The night she turns sixteen answers to these questions suddenly become paramount: her mom is missing and her car shows blood and other signs of a struggle. Realizing that her own life is also in danger, Chass must now discover her mom's fate, while also keeping one step ahead of the police and social workers who are determined to consign the teen to foster care. "Sorrells masterfully sustains suspense throughout" his story, wrote Connie Fletcher in her Booklist review of Fake ID, the critic adding that the author's technique of "spiking the drama with some truly frightening scenes" results in "a terrific read." In Kliatt Claire Rosser had the same opinion, noting that Sorrells' "suspenseful, tight plot and interesting characters make [Fake ID] … ideal YA popular literature."
Readers rejoin Chass in Club Dread, and take in new surroundings now that the girl has moved from Alabama to San Francisco. Following her interest in music, Chass is busy forming a rock band, but the last thing she really wants is a high profile. When a local pop star is shot down in the street, the dying man passes the teen a clue to his killer. This clue draws Chass into the city's seedy underground-music world as she attempts to out the killer before she becomes his—or her—next victim. Dubbing Club Dread "a thoroughly satisfying thriller," Connie Fletcher added in her Booklist review that the second novel in the "Hunted" series is "as riveting as the first book," while School Library Journal contributor Miranda Doyle concluded: "Readers searching for a quick, suspenseful read will find a winner here."
Also focusing on teens, The Silent Room introduces readers to fifteen-year-old Oswald Turner—Oz for short. While most teens look with suspicion on their parent's new spouse, for Oz the man who has married his recently widowed mother is truly out to get him. Implicated in a drug possession charge, Oz is whisked away to a reform school in the middle of a Florida swamp,
where he finds himself living like a prisoner in true Southern style. As he survives the brutal conditions at Briarwood School, he learns that his stepfather had a reason for wanting Oz out of the way: he is somehow involved with the school's nefarious goings on, and Oz's mom may be next on the man's hit list unless the teen can find a way to escape. Noting that The Silent Room treats teen readers to adults who are "over-the-top vicious," Stephanie Zvirin added in her Booklist review that "it's impossible not to be caught up by Oz's naiveté." Comparing the tension Sorrells builds to that created in the popular television program 24, Rosser wrote in Kliatt that The Silent Room shows its author to be "an experienced writer of mysteries." A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded: "This one's a thriller that really thrills."
Continuing to alternate between YA and adult novels, Sorrells also writes the "Cold Case Thriller" series under the pseudonym Lynn Abercrombie. Again taking place in Atlanta, series installments The Body Box and Blind Fear draw readers into the workings of the city's Cold Case unit, where African-American detective Mechelle Deakes sifts through the departments unsolved crimes, looking for clues. Writing that Deakes provides readers with a likeable central character, a Publishers Weekly also cited the "breezy dialogue" in The Body Box and noted that Sorrells' story will keep fans riveted to each page by including "challenging procedural details." In a review of Blind Fear, a Publishers Weekly contributor remarked on the "improbable plot" but nonetheless recommended the novel as a "who-dunit police procedural with a fast pace and action enough to keep readers along for the ride."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 15, 1998, David Pitt, review of Atlanta Graves, p. 987; May 1, 2005, Stephanie Zvirin, "Leave the Blood at the Door: Adult Mystery Writers Try Children's Books," p. 1512, and Connie Fletcher, review of Fake ID, p. 1542; January 1, 2006, Connie Fletcher, review of Club Dread, p. 85; May 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Silent Room, p. 47.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 2005, review of Fake ID, p. 512; July-August, 2006, Loretta Gaffney, review of The Silent Room, p. 518.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Proof of Intent, p. 1249; February 1, 2006, review of Club Dread, p. 137; May 1, 2006, review of The Silent Room, p. 467.
Kliatt, July, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Fake ID, p. 15; March, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Club Dread, p. 17; May, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of The Silent Room, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, January 3, 1994, review of Power of Attorney, p. 77; June 10, 1996, review of Cry for Justice, p. 96; October 28, 2002, review of Proof of Intent, p. 51; October 24, 2005, review of The Body Box, p. 45; February 20, 2006, review of Feet of Clay, p. 138; October 9, 2006, review of Blind Fear, p. 42.
School Library Journal, June, 2005, Miranda Doyle, review of Fake ID, p. 170; March, 2006, Lynn Evarts, reviews of Static and Club Dread, p. 230; July, 2006, Beth Gallego, review of The Silent Room, p. 113.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2005, Deborah Fisher, review of Fake ID, p. 226.
BookBrowser, http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (March 20, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of Atlanta Graves.
Mystery Reader Web site,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (March 20, 2001), Martha Moore, review of Fulton County Blues.
Walter Sorrells Home Page,http://www.waltersorrells.com (March 15, 2007).