Choke (latest release)

"Choke: Between the Covers" - published by Fully Booked reviews, July 2017

Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile - review published June 23, 2017

Amazon.com customer reviews

More reviews forthcoming...

 

The Ghost of Mary Prairie

Review by David Steinberg

The Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque author (and Crosswinds Weekly contributor) Lisa Polisar conjures up the dark world of a depraved but brilliant serial killer who gets his kicks from terrorizing vulnerable young women in this impressive debut novel, which features the equally smart psychologist Gena Hollender as the madman's profiler, pursuer, and wayward victim.  Hollender is a savvy Manhattanite who would rather renovate her old brownstone and cultivate exotic plants than track down suspected murderer Victor Trikonis in Maine.  But when duty calls, via the compelling invitations of two former colleagues, also her lovers, Hollender feels she has no choice ... Polisar is at her best when getting inside the head of her protagonist: "Everything insideher said no.  Every impulse of conscious thought and reasoning, every molecule of her body said the same thing.  No.  But a part of her, when she was working at the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, had felt more alive than ever ... Some part of her was still hanging on."

The reader is finally drawn into Hollender's deepening obsession with her nemesis when the frequency of murders increases, and the threat to her own life becomes more real.  In the end, the pursuit becomes as much a matter of personal vengeance and pride as the desire to stop a psychopath from slitting more throats.  Blackwater Tango takes its time to deliver the dramatic tension demanded of a crime-genre thriller, and the payoff is worth the wait.  Gena Hollender - and Lisa Polisar - are two names worth watching for in years ahead.

March 25, 2007 

 This entertaining mystery aimed at young adults takes readers back to the summer of 1961 in the American heartland. 

    The setting is small town Grady, Okla. Fifteen-year-old Jake Leeds accepts his coming-of-age initiation from his friend Mikey Savage: Sleep on the ground at the unused baseball diamond without a sleeping shoes bag, blanket . or even N.M. 

    All well and good, but Jake must confront an unexpected paranormal occurrence that will change his life. He hears the shrieks of the ghost of a young woman. And he thinks he actually sees a vision of her gagged and tied up. 

    The next morning Jake learns from Mikey that her name was Mary. Nickname Mary Prairie. Real name, Jake finds out, was Mary McCann. She used to live in Grady. She’s dead. But was she killed? 

    Those bits of information are enough to whet Jake’s curiosity to find out more about her. After all, he and Mikey are big-time fans of Sherlock Holmes. 

    Albuquerque author Lisa Polisar has woven into the fabric of this novel plenty of hair-raising turns and emotional dips of the developing plot that readers, young adult or older, will find themselves bouncing alongside Jake and Mikey in an old Chevy pickup. 

    Polisar has enough weaves to make this fabric into an intriguing plaid. And she marvelously succeeds as the weaver. At the center of the intrigue is the teenagers’ relentless, summerlong search for Mary’s past and their willingness to risk getting into trouble to get what they want. Jake drives a pickup for which he doesn’t have a license. He gets thrown into jail, bounced out by Mikey’s mean cop-brother Blackie. Jake’s family is a mess. His father has hardly worked in 10 years; he prefers to drink. His sister has a baby with the village idiot, but the doc who visits her (yes, this was still a time when physicians still made house calls) fancies her. Jake’s mom is the glue for OKLA. this unstable family. Grady But own mom secret has that her becomes a critical TEXAS revelation in the story’s dénouement. Jake’s pretty girlfriend, Janet Lange, makes several warmly romantic appearances and reminds him that she won’t hang around forever. Jake is upset that he’s not giving Janet enough attention, but he has other fish to fry right now. The writing has an endearing cadence and flavor to it though sometimes the language is awkward. Here one example: “And in that instant, with Mikey standing on the front lawn and me still on the porch, we became transformed into Maxima and Brainiac, instinctively knowing what to do and unafraid of the action necessary to affect change.” My italics. Through the teenagers’ dialogue and behavior Jake is shown as smart and tough but not a smart mouth. 

    Polisar has a nice touch in melding scene description with plot. Here’s one example with Jake speaking: “I had now committed petty larceny, as the bait shop would have already closed. The hot calm of afternoon had lifted into cool, angry gusts dragged across the flat prairie.” 

    Her storytelling style makes one think of the Hardy Boys. The novel would translate well to an audio book and to a madefor-TV film. I hope Polisar writes a sequel. I want to read more about Jake’s youthful adventures. I think anyone who reads “The Ghost of Mary Prairie” will be hooked. 

David Steinberg is a Journal arts writer and the book editor. 

Blackwater Tango

Midwest Book Review

Lisa Polisar's BLACKWATER TANGO is a chilling and suspenseful novel about the hunt for a brilliant yet twisted psychologist turned serial killer. Horrific and frightening in its portrayal of cruelty and the erosion of sanity, BLACKWATER TANGO is a riveting read of one woman's determination to find her personal nemesis and nightmare before it claims her life as its next victim.

 

Richard Mahler, Crosswinds Weekly

Albuquerque author (and Crosswinds Weekly contributor) Lisa Polisar conjures up the dark world of a depraved but brilliant serial killer who gets his kicks from terrorizing vulnerable young women in this impressive debut novel, which features the equally smart psychologist Gena Hollender as the madman's profiler, pursuer, and wayward victim.  Hollender is a savvy Manhattanite who would rather renovate her old brownstone and cultivate exotic plants than track down suspected murderer Victor Trikonis in Maine.  But when duty calls, via the compelling invitations of two former colleagues, also her lovers, Hollender feels she has no choice ... Polisar is at her best when getting inside the head of her protagonist: "Everything insideher said no.  Every impulse of conscious thought and reasoning, every molecule of her body said the same thing.  No.  But a part of her, when she was working at the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, had felt more alive than ever ... Some part of her was still hanging on."

The reader is finally drawn into Hollender's deepening obsession with her nemesis when the frequency of murders increases, and the threat to her own life becomes more real.  In the end, the pursuit becomes as much a matter of personal vengeance and pride as the desire to stop a psychopath from slitting more throats.  Blackwater Tango takes its time to deliver the dramatic tension demanded of a crime-genre thriller, and the payoff is worth the wait.  Gena Hollender - and Lisa Polisar - are two names worth watching for in years ahead.

 

Susan Streib, Sisters in Crime

Gena Hollender is a psychologist with a private practice in New York.  She is currently deep into renovations of her inherited brownstone which includes a green house for her exotic plants.  In her recent past she was a criminal profiler for the FBI.

Victor Trikonis is the suspected serial killer.  He, too, is a brilliant psychologist, and a master manipulator.  He is the one that got away from Gena years ago, named but never captured.  Or, perhaps, it was Gena that got away from him.  Victor's primary interest is discovering the process the mind goes through when a free person is incarcerated.  To this end, he formed a control group of 6 young women:  one dies naturally, 1 escapes his clutches, and 4, he decided, would live, at least temporarily.  Then he fixates on the one who got away.  His plan is to punish her for escaping, then execute her.

Marcus Valenzuela is Gena's former colleague, now functioning as a detective, who calls urgently for Gena, to meet in Portland, Maine.

At Monhegan Island, ME, a fisherman hauls in his lobster traps and discovers a young woman, grotesquely bent to fit inside one of those traps.  The victim carried the signature method of a Victor Trikonis kill.

Gena arrives in Portland to find most of the original serial killer task force reunited, and no one officially acknowledges summoning them collectively.

This is just the beginning of a well constructed plot built twist upon twist of seemingly unrelated episodes.  The fisherman who found the first body disappears.  Gena is attacked in the park after she hears gun shots.  A U.S. Senator's son is killed.  A photojournalist does a study of homeless people.  An old flame is rekindled between Gena and her former boss, Terrence Zemecke, now an attorney for the Office of the General Counsel, FBI.  The county sheriff is an ex-Texas Ranger.  Intriguing, yes, and the body count continues to climb.

This is a page turner thriller, but do not turn those pages too fast.  BLACKWATER TANGO is a full flavored book, that needs slow-going to savor the delicious locations in Maine, the misty February weather, and the fine detail of the relationships.  I could feel the damp fog in my face.  The characters are as well drawn and as interesting as their names suggest, with flaws and passions and features that make them fully three dimensional as well as individual.

Iearned a little bit more about psychology by reading this book, and a little bit more about English poetry, and a smidgen about scuba diving off the coast of Maine in mid-winter.

This book was immensely enjoyable, and I look forward to a second of what I hope will be a series.  Not only do I suspect Lisa Polisar will come up with another superb plot, but I want to know what happens, or does not happen, between Gena and the cute contractor completing the brownstone's renovations, or between Gena and the clearly smitten detective Marcus Valenzuela.  This may be Lisa Polisar's first full length novel, but she is no novice story teller!  Good job, Lisa!

 

Author Interviews

 

Author interview by Barnes and Noble book bloggers

Magazine of International Thriller Writers (published September 1, 2017)

 

June 20, 2017

 

 

When you began writing:

I recall having the urge to write shortly after I learned to read. I felt an immediate connection with words and with books, and I think I started writing poetry when I was about seven. Natalie Goldberg's book Writing Down the Bones changed my life. After reading it, I wrote my first novel - longhand on legal pads at an old maple desk in the corner of my bedroom. And since I had a habit of not finishing creative projects, I wouldn't let myself buy another legal pad until I'd filled up every last page of the one I was working on. I was so happy when I finished it, and now that I've written six books, I can say there's no greater joy than finishing writing a novel. Books bring me tremendous joy and comfort. I like having them all around me, spilling out of slanted bookcases, stacked up and down, sideways and on top, with paperbacks lining the floor around it.

Why do you write?

I love to tell stories. Stories are what hold civilization together. They provide a written chronicle of the details of our lives and families, of what's important to us, and of where we've been and where we are going. With my mystery novels, I like to give people a puzzle to solve, but a multi-layered puzzle. A good mystery should have lots of secrets, and one primary "legend" buried at the root of everything. In my novel Knee Deep, a New Mexico mystery that will be published in paperback by Port Town Publishing and released in December of 2003, I have buried lots of secrets that the main character, Leo Drucker, is trying to uncover. And what he finds at the heart of their entire investigation is a secret buried in his own past.

Other writers who have influenced your work:

As a child I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries, and as a teenager I read Agatha Christie's novels one after the other. I felt an immediate connection with Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse. There was something so human about him — brilliant, brooding and flawed all at once. But regarding short stories, many of the Beat writers made a big impression on me, especially William Carlos Williams. He wrote about the beauty in simple things, like an old woman walking down the street carrying a spray of marigolds wrapped in crumpled newspaper, or a wildflower growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. His writings remind me that anything is possible.

Interesting facts about the piece and its influences:

Big Hands No Pockets means a great deal to me because it is based on the experiences of a real person, a friend of mine. Some details and memories from my own life are also infused in the story, like the vegetable garden. I guess it comes from the vegetable garden my grandparents had in their backyard when I was growing up. There is something very primal about planting a seed in soil and nurturing it while it grows into something. The earth or the ground, in general, is a symbol of beginnings and endings, and I think that's what this story is about more than anything else.

This story and interview was originally published in printed form in the Spring, 2002 issue of Thought Magazine.

 

Wicked Company Book Preview

Where Lisa Polisar grew up:

Lisa Polisar grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts, "which is a small suburb of Boston on the south shore of MA a half mile from the ocean." She moved to Hartford, CT to go to college (Hartt School of Music at U. of Hartford) and stayed there for eight years. For the past ten years, she has lived with her husband and cat in New Mexico. She loves the mountains of New Mexico, "but I miss the smell of low tide, the sound of the ocean and squawking seagulls in the worst way."

What inspired Lisa to write BLACKWATER TANGO? 

She told me, "It started with a character's name that popped in my head at 2 a.m. I had a feeling that it was important, so I wrote it down on a napkin on my coffee table. The name was Marcus Valenzuela, and he's the half British/half Latin police detective in BLACKWATER TANGO. I didn't have an outline and the story just sort of unfolded from there. I'm very character/people oriented. I have an immediate mental picture of the actor Benjamin Bratt as Marcus, so that made it easier for me to determine how he would act, what he would say, etc. I try to conjure up celebrity-tie ins like this for all my main characters. Then I find photographs of them on the internet, print them and cut them out and make a collage that I tape to my monitor so I can see them every day."

Where she gets her ideas for characters, plot, and places that she features in her books:

She said, "For me, none of these features really arise out of conscious decisions. Characters and setting are ideas that just sort of arrive fully formed in my head. Now plot, on the other hand, is something that comes gradually. I think I have to be willing to take those first few steps into total darkness without any preconceived notion of where I'm going with a story, and then I can usually find my way eventually. I think readers like the element of surprise in a good mystery, and as a writer I need that as well. This is why I don't generally plot my novels. I want to be surprised about where the story takes my characters, rather than me dictating every step of the way."

What is Lisa's background and her writing process?

Lisa Polisar is a professional jazz flutist and an abstract oil painter. She told me, "Both of these outlets feed my creativity, but also provide a good release for pent up energy when I'm mentally working out a writing detail. When I get stumped about how to write something, I sometimes take long walks in my neighborhood, or I lay on the 'thinking couch' in my living room." She has a part time day job where she works about 5 hours a day. She spends another 4-5 hours writing, in the morning and after dinner. She said, "I type at my computer, and sometimes I write longhand in little green notebooks late at night before I go to bed. My desk has a lamp, a pen holder, staplers, some sea shells, a bulletin board of photographs of the place I'm writing about (currently Liverpool, Nova Scotia), and then an opened white binder where I organize everything about the book I'm currently working on. Right now the binder is opened and has piles of handwritten notes, local maps, plotting ideas and research on top of it."

When did Lisa begin writing?

Like most writers I've interviewed, Lisa wrote stories when she was very young. "I was totally enchanted with books as a child. As a teenager, I felt naturally drawn to serial mystery characters, like Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot. I liked absorbing myself in characters and being able to solve a crime at the same time." She began writing in earnest at the University of Hartford. She said, "I took a lot of advanced writing and psychology courses, which has really proved useful in writing psychological suspense and thrillers. I've taken lots of seminars, workshops and attended writing conferences focusing on the technique of fiction writing, preparing manuscripts, creating compelling characters and plotting." Still an avid reader, she especially loves regional mysteries "because you can transport yourself to another time and place. In particular, Elisabeth Peters' Egyptian mysteries, Arthur Upfield's Australian mysteries, and English authors (Colin Dexter, PD James, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle)."

What does she enjoy most about writing? 

"I like the aspect of being able to just 'make up stories.' To me, that's like being transported back to childhood and the ultimate escapism from the pressures and stress of adult life. What I dislike the most are the boring mechanics. Spell checking, page numbering, formatting a manuscript for submissions. So I try to minimize this task by doing it as I go along rather than leaving it all till the end."

Who is Lisa's mentor?

"In college and to this day, my mentor was my freshman year English professor, Dr. Melvin Goldstein. He was incredibly eccentric and wonderfully unconventional in his teaching style. I have always been drawn to people like this. There were no grades given in his classes--he just put a check mark on the bottom of assignments if they were satisfactory, and no check mark if they weren't. At the end of the term, he gave either A's or F's and nothing in between. He didn't demand writing perfection, in terms of technique or execution, but he demanded 110% commitment to ourselves, the concept of learning, and to the courage it takes to truly open your heart and mind. I carry his teachings with me to this day. I remember on the first day of class, and bear in mind we were a bunch of terrified freshman and he was this freaky, eccentric older man mumbling in Yiddish, he stood up and said "write me a paper about all the things you don't want me to know about you." Some people in the class just laughed and refused to write anything, other people wrote down all the things they would never tell their parents (sneaking out of the house, the candy bars they stole from the corner store…), and to me this seemed like a perfect opportunity and venue to just "make stuff up" which is, to me, the essence of creativity. In my paper, I told him I was a secret government operative, that I was a cocaine dealer, that I had twelve illegitimate children and that if I told him my real name I would have to kill him. From that point on, Dr. G and I were endeared to each other forever. What he taught me wasn't how to write, but how to think, and how to keep my mind open enough to absorb what life could teach me."

Her more recent mentors are Natalie Goldberg and David Morrell. "I've taken several workshops with Natalie and I've read all of her books, and each time I re-read them, they continue to teach me new things. And I was fortunate enough to meet bestselling author David Morrell (the creator of "Rambo" and author of about 30 books) at a writing conference this year. He was incredibly encouraging and supportive of my writing and I am blessed for the guidance he's given me on my path so far. It has been very helpful to learn from someone who has contributed so much to the genre and gone so far in his career. His recent book, "Lessons in Writing" taught me more than any other writing book in my library. He is truly an inspiration."

Who is the most memorable person Lisa has ever met?

"...that would be my husband, Steve. The first moment I met him, I knew I would never be the same again. He's the one person who constantly inspires me to stick to my path, hold onto my dreams and to not give up. He's incredibly creative (though he doesn't admit it), tenacious, and he works harder than anyone I know. I couldn't continue to write and create stories without his constant support and encouragement."

What about professional affiliations?

Lisa Polisar is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Southwest Writers, and International Thriller Writers. She said, "Making the decision to join these organizations was a big consideration for me. But I reached a point where I realized that I had to invest some money in my dream if I wanted it to really come true. And the camaraderie and networking opportunities I've had with each of these organizations has made an incredible difference in my writing life."

Advice for aspiring writers:

"Pick up a pen and start writing. Or turn on your computer, open a blank document and just start filling the pages with words. Don't worry so much, in the beginning, about form, technique, and all the 'rules.' You'll need to learn and assimilate the rules eventually, but for now, write what you want and stay true to your own voice. If you feel compelled to write about cats, then write about them as thoroughly and deeply as you can. Go out and look for cats if you don't have any. Study them. Watch their behavior, their mannerisms, try to identify what their motivations are and where their magic lies. As writers, we need to be secret psychologists. Analysis and research is an integral part of writing compelling stories and creating real characters."

Other published works:

BLACKWATER TANGO is Lisa's first published mystery. Her second book, a New Mexico mystery entitled KNEE DEEP, will be published by Port Town Publishing in December of 2003. She is currently working on two new novels. "One is a modern thriller, and the other is a mainstream mystery that takes place in Grady, Oklahoma in 1960. I'm also an art reviewer for a New Mexico magazine/newspaper called Crosswinds Weekly, and I write articles on writing and jazz for various magazines."

Claudia McCants
Book Preview Club Manager
This interview was originally conducted by the Wicked Company Book Preview Club, October 2002.

Other Interviews

Author Interview by Madeline Dyer

Society for Creative Sustainability
Interview

New Mystery Reader Magazine
Interview

 

Favorite Stories

The Club Dumas, Arturo Perez Reverte

Montana, 1948, Larry Watson

The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich

The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen

The Emperor of Ocean Park, Stephen L. Carter

Sleeping Murder, Agatha Christie

The Way Through the Woods, Colin Dexter

A Thief of Time, Tony Hillerman

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown

Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children, Ransom Rigs

The Resurrectionists, Michael Collins

Fearless Jones, Walter Mosely

Timeline, Michael Crichton

A Mind to Murder, PD James

Out of Africa, Karen Blixen

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

The Blue Nowhere, Jeffrey Deaver

A Walk in the Dark, Gianrico Carofiglio

The Lost Gate, Orson Scott Card

Island of Bones, Imogen Robertson

Lisa Towles (previously Polisar) is a fiction writer, journalist, blogger, and musician. Her love affair with mysteries began with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, P.D. James, and she remains an insatiable devotee of Sherlock Holmes to this day. 

Lisa did graduate work in psychology and orchestral music at the University of Exeter (UK), she has a B.A. in music (applied flute) from University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music and she is currently halfway through an MBA in IT Management. Forever fascinated with the psychology of crimes and criminals, she has continued to study forensic science and psychology ever since as a means of digging deeper into her characters and understanding the depth of the human psyche. 

Lisa's new thriller, Choke, was published by Rebel E Publishers in June of 2017 in trade paper and Kindle. Lisa's other published novels (under the name Lisa Polisar) include Escape: Dark Mystery Tales, a collection of short mystery fiction published in 2010, The Ghost of Mary Prairie, a classic mystery/suspense published in 2007, Blackwater Tango, a psychological thriller published in 2002, and Knee Deep, an eerie suspense published in 2001. Lisa also wrote Straight Ahead, a book on jazz improvisation, published by Chile Piper Press (Albuquerque, New Mexico). To read excerpts and reviews of Lisa's novels, click the Books link on this website.

Lisa's short fiction and poetry have been widely published in literary journals, and as a journalist, Lisa has published feature articles, technical articles, art reviews, and book reviews for a variety of magazines. In 2004, she won two journalism awards from the National Association of Press Women. She is an active member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Lisa works as an IT manager in the Bay Area tech industry.

Lisa grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts, and has lived in Connecticut, England, New Mexico, and California. She has lived with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2007.