The Innocence Game

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My latest book, The Innocence Game, was released today. I’ve included below an excerpt and brief description from the book’s jacket. One fact you’ll only learn here, however, is that The Innocence Game was inspired by several real-life death row cases I worked on as a documentary producer. Check out the Wikipedia page for Odell Barnes, convicted of murder and executed by the state of Texas in 2000. Many people feel Odell was framed for the crime, mostly due to some blood evidence critics contend was planted on Odell’s clothing. The Innocence Game is not based on the Barnes case, but there is a piece of evidence inspired by the case that plays a critical role in the novel. Likewise, there’s a group called the Needle Squad in The Innocence Game. This aspect of the book was inspired by (although not based on) a series of cases coming out of Cook County in the 1980’s. These cases involved a select group of prosecutors, detectives and forensic experts who worked as a team to bang out capital murder convictions. Many of those Cook County cases have subsequently been overturned, with DNA proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the men cuffed and packed off to death row were, in fact, innocent. It would all be hard to believe, if it weren’t all too true. Not coincidentally,Texas and Illinois rank first and second nationally in the number of cases overturned by DNA evidence.

Here’s an excerpt and description of The Innocence Game…

A pair of yellow eyes stared intently up the slope. Toward the cave. The eyes blinked once and a soft moan issued. It was an aching that pricked the back of my neck and clenched my stomach into a fist. His silhouette turned to look at me, as if he’d known I was there all along. Then he was gone.

For Ian Joyce it’s a normal day at the Medill School of Journalism. That is, until another student, Jake Havens, pulls a wrinkled grey envelope from his jacket pocket. Inside is a blood-stained scrap of shirt from a boy murdered over fourteen years ago and an anonymous note taking credit for the killing. The only problem is that a man has already been convicted of the crime and was himself murdered while on death row.

Suddenly, Ian and Jake aren’t working on a regular assignment. Then again, when your class project is to examine old murder files, there’s no such thing as a regular day. Teaming up with a third classmate, Sarah Gold, the students quickly uncover more men convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. As the clock ticks, the questions begin to pile up. Why are innocent men being framed in Chicago? And who’s been getting away with murder?

Ian, Jake and Sarah hunt a serial killer even as they are being hunted by the city’s corrupt police force. As the case starts to unravel, the three students focus not on maintaining their grades, but on simply staying alive.


Starting a new book

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Started a new book today. Always fun. They’re always fun in the beginning! I’ve actually got two books in mind. One is a legal thriller (of sorts) set in Chicago. The other will be set in Boston. That’s where I grew up so this book will be more of a childhood and neighborhood book. I grew up in a section of Boston called Brighton. It’s been pretty much gentrified now, but back in the day it was a typical blue-collar Boston neighborhood. Very much of a Mystic River” sort of feel to it. Until the fifth grade, I lived in a neighborhood called Oak Square — six kids and my parents in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a three-decker. I grew up fast enough and spent a lot more time on the streets than I did at home. It was a lot of fun. Looking back on it, however, things could have gone sideways in any one of a hundred different ways. In fact, things did go bad for a lot of the kids I grew up with. A lot of friends. This book will probably deal with that reality… and the almost random chance that can set two lives on very different paths. I guess it’s the randomness that really interests me. The fine line between one lived experience and another…and the idea that we aren’t really in control of any of it. One person is nudged in one direction. Another takes a small step along a different path. The die is cast….the dominoes fall …and things begin to happen. Anyway, that’s how I start these books. With a lot of crazy ideas… and no real plan how it’s all gonna tie together. As long as it feels authentic, I figure that’s a good place to start.


My first blog post

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Hi, guys. This is my first blog which (I hope) will link to my website. We’ll see. I will try to blog a couple times a week. Maybe more. Sometimes it will just be an update on where I’m at with my writing. Or perhaps some news on a documentary project. I might also write a bit about the process of creating a novel from scratch. As it happens, I’m about to start a new one in the next couple of weeks. For those who are interested, I’ll be happy to share some of the chaos that is the creative process. As for my finished projects, here is where things stand. I finished reviewing final galleys for THE INNOCENCE GAME last week. It was the last time I’d see the manuscript, so I had to make all those nettlesome decisions I’d been putting off forever…last minute word changes, character names I couldn’t decide on, a minor plot detail or two. All done. I feel great about the book. Sometimes I tend to get sick of my stuff during the editing process. After reading through a manuscript a couple hundred times, who wouldn’t! THE INNOCENCE GAME, however, remained very fresh throughout. It’s my first stand-alone, (that is, a non-Michael Kelly book), and was a pleasure to write. The book will be released in the USA and Europe on May 6th. I will give you more details about the book over the next couple of months. Not sure how much of the plot to give away, but we’ll see. I think you’ll like it. I have finished a second novel as well. It’s a Michael Kelly novel and it’s called THE GOVERNOR’S WIFE. No publication date yet, but I’m hoping for Christmas of 2013….or spring of 2014. I love all the Kelly novels, but I’m pretty sure THE GOVERNOR’S WIFE is going to be my favorite. It felt right from the very start. I haven’t started the copy editing process on that one yet. Should get into that sometime in the next couple of months. OK that’s enough for a first post. I’ve got some ideas for the new book floating around in my head and I need to get them down before they disappear altogether. Best, MH


The Fifth Floor Trailer

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Trailer for Michael Harvey’s novel, The Fifth Floor.


The Third Rail book trailer

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Trailer for Michael Harvey’s novel, The Third Rail