Sunday, November 26, 2017

ONE NIGHT IN AMBOISE by Ken Malovos Excerpt & Interview

Author: Ken Malovos
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 289
Genre: Legal Mystery

JIM HANSEN AND CORINNE LARSON are overseas college students at Amboise, France. After meeting at a local bar they leave and encounter a drunk. JIM hits him and the man may be dead. At the manor house where they live, they kiss and make love. The next day she accuses him of rape but does not formally charge him. He denies the charge. The police investigate the killing of the drunk.

After they return to California, CORINNE struggles with the whole incident, wondering if she was at fault. She talks to her sisters and then seeks professional help after turning to alcohol.  JIM goes to law school and becomes a deputy district attorney, always wondering if the allegation of rape will surface and whether he did the right thing. He marries another overseas student from Amboise.

ALICIA OBREGON contacts JIM and asks him to dismiss the criminal case against her husband. She informs JIM that she knows all about Amboise and threatens to expose him. He throws the case, thereby allowing a guilty person to go free. Over time he pays her money.

JIM is appointed a judge and ALICIA continues to blackmail him. CORINNE’s husband comes to Sacramento and confronts JIM in his chambers. JIM says he is sorry about the whole thing. JIM goes to a rehabilitation facility but in a few weeks he leaves, feeling he has resolved all of his concerns. 

ALICIA is found dead. ALICIA’s husband is charged with her murder but he implicates JIM because he knows all about the blackmailing scheme. JIM then is arrested and must stand trial for the murder of ALICIA. The prosecutor focuses on JIM’s motive. JIM asks noted trial lawyer MIKE ZORICH to represent him.  JIM turns down a plea bargain and a sensational jury trial follows. JIM is not truthful with his wife, his attorney or the jury. CORINNE’s husband testifies. The jury cannot reach a decision and JIM must live with a tarnished reputation amidst unsettled questions whether he killed ALICIA and raped CORINNE.



April 1985
It all happened in a couple of seconds. The man was lying on his back in the café doorway on a wet, dimly lit street in Amboise, France. He appeared to be lifeless. There was no movement.
Corinne Larson looked at the man and then at Jim Hansen in astonishment. The two American students were standing under the overhang of the closed café, as rain fell lightly. It was just after eleven at night and all the shops were closed on the dark, narrow street, just down from the Rue Nationale.
The man startled them when he jumped out from behind a garbage can and grabbed the end of Corinne’s coat. Instinctively, Jim grabbed Corinne and pulled her away. She clutched her purse and said something to the man, who was reeking of wine and looked crazed with wide open eyes. Then he lurched toward them again. Jim swung his fist and caught the man on the right side of his face, stopping his forward movement. The man was stunned. Jim quickly pushed him as hard as he could and the man fell back, banging his head on the garbage can and landing in front of the door with a thud.
Jim paused for a second, deciding what to do, but the man lay still, his eyes closed. Jim did not think he felt a pulse when he put his fingers to the man’s wrist, but he was not certain. He stared at him for a moment. The man was unshaven and hatless; his belt rested more on his ample stomach than in the loops of his pants. He wore a tattered jacket with a large tear on the left sleeve and a battered, old beret lay on the ground.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Jim said.
“Wait. Is he okay?”
“I don’t know. I think he’s drunk. But I think we need to get out of here.”
“Wait a minute.”
Corinne looked around, a worried expression on her face. Jim took her by the arm and they started walking, each of them checking back every few seconds to see if the man moved. He didn’t. Jim looked down the street, but there was no one in sight. It was quiet and dark and wet. They only had a few more blocks to go, as they hurried within eyesight of the Chateau Royal d’Amboise and headed to the manor house, where they were staying with other overseas college students from California.
“Maybe we should say something to somebody,” Corinne said. “Call the police?”
“There’s nobody around here. Let’s just forget this whole thing,” he said. “Leave it alone.”
“That doesn’t seem right.”
“I don’t think we should get involved. They may blame us. You never know.”
“But we didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Right. I was just defending you. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
She looked at him. He didn’t meet her eyes. Instead, he looked down the street again.
“You know, probably nobody will even miss him,” Jim said.
“Why would they blame us?”
“I don’t know. We are foreign students. I’m just afraid I could be charged with something and get locked up. Somebody else will find him…” his voice trailed off.
Jim pulled Corinne close to him. She pulled the lapels of her black coat up around her neck and leaned her head slightly into his, as they scurried along. That April night, a group of American students went to the Brasserie Hippeau, about a half-mile from their manor house. Everyone had too much to drink, but that’s what kids do in college—they drink too much.
The memories of America’s saving role in World War II and all of the G.I.s who served in France during the war were not entirely gone, even forty years later. The residual good will from that horrific time was passed down to the children and grandchildren of the town’s citizens. So a little excess drinking by the young Americans was easily tolerated. Most people took a parental interest in the students. A group of middle-aged women engaged in a game of bridge at a table about twenty feet away grinned at each other as they observed the noisy group in the corner.
The students talked about their families back home and about the year that was drawing to a close. Mostly, they drank beer. Gradually, the group of students that assembled at the watering hole decreased in size until only six remained.
The brasserie stayed open past its usual 9:30 closing time, as it often did when there were patrons. It was late and someone said it was time to go home. The other four took off and it was just the two of them. Jim waited for Corinne while she went to the restroom.
Jim watched as she sauntered to the back of the bar. He liked the way she her rear moved with each forward motion of her hips. He thought about her big brown eyes when she gazed up hazily from her glass of wine into his eyes. They were soft and her eyelashes were long. Her brown hair fell just below her shoulders and she would brush it away every now and then as it tickled her cheeks. After a couple of minutes, she emerged from the back of the brasserie with a slight smile on her face. He looked at the curve of her waist and her perky breasts. On her slender neck she wore a silver chain with a silver heart. He was glad to be with her.
“They said they wanted to get going, so I told them I would walk with you,” Jim said. “We can catch up.”
“That was nice of you, but I have walked these streets alone a lot of times at night. It’s a pretty safe town.”
“I know, but just the same. Can’t be too safe. Besides, we’re both pretty buzzed.”
“You’ve got that right,” she said. “I haven’t had that much to drink in a long time.”
Jim Hansen liked Corinne Larson, even though they had not spent much time together during their stay in France. They were part of a group of 80 students, but for some reason they did not cross paths all that much. Maybe it was because so many smaller groups formed naturally.  But then they met unexpectedly a couple of months ago on a Saturday afternoon in Amboise. Both were exploring where Leonardo da Vinci lived at the Chateau du Clos Luce in 1515 and the Chapel of Saint-Hubert where he was buried. Every citizen of the small town knew the story of how Leonardo came to France with his famous painting, the Mona Lisa. Their interest in French history drew them together.
Ever since that afternoon, Jim and Corinne often smiled at each other in class and in the dining room. But they did not spent time alone with one another. Jim was reluctant to approach Corinne, for reasons he could not explain, and Corinne was naturally shy.
They didn’t say much more on the way home, both lost in their thoughts, just walking along to avoid any further issue with the drunk who had accosted them. He saved her, so to speak. He did a good thing and he felt proud of himself. They passed the fountain in the center of the town, a favorite gathering spot for the students. As they arrived at the manor house, Jim let her scent waft over him. He wondered if he would dare make a move. He had to, she was so good-looking. And he figured he was her hero.
They opened the creaky door and shook off the raindrops, Jim keeping in close contact while he helped her out of her coat. And then he kissed her. She seemed to be surprised at first, but she reciprocated and they sat down in an adjoining parlor on a sofa. They kissed a lot that night. After a while, he closed the door to the small room. He started to unbutton her blouse, but then it ripped in the process as their kisses became stronger and longer.
It might have been the alcohol or the hormones or the exhilaration of the knight-in-shining-armor saving his lady, but only the two of them knew exactly what happened in the next few minutes. It became the subject of their memories for many years after that rainy night in the middle of France.
He recalled her saying “no” at some point, but he didn’t really think she meant it. As he saw it, her actions said the opposite. Yes, she struggled and tried to push him off and yes, he was bigger, but she never yelled out. She didn’t leave. He may have pushed her back, he couldn’t recall. She turned her head to the side when he tried to kiss her some more. Later, she grabbed her clothes, put on her coat, and left quickly. It was quiet in the old house and he was pretty sure nobody heard them.

* * *
The morning after that April night with Corinne, Jim ate breakfast with his usual gang. He was thinking of the man he shoved. Maybe he wasn’t dead. Maybe he had a pulse and Jim just didn’t feel it. He certainly seemed to be drunk. Maybe he slept it off and was okay. That was probably what happened, Jim thought to himself. The more he thought about it the more he became convinced the man survived and everything was fine. He probably should have looked for help, but it was too late now.
With a sturdy build and 6 foot 2 inches in height, blue-green eyes and dark brown hair, he bore something of a resemblance to Paul McCartney. At least that was what he was told by his sisters and a couple of their friends when he was growing up. He didn’t think he looked like the famous singer at all. He had a small scar over his right eye, the result of an accident in his youth when he was playing catch in the front yard with a friend and crashed into a lawn sprinkler attached to a hose, but he figured he was still handsome enough.
He thought of Corinne and wondered if they might become real friends. He liked her and he hoped she felt the same way. Last night was exciting and still at the front of his mind. He wished she had stayed instead of leaving so quickly. He looked around the dining room for her, but she was not to be seen. After breakfast, he went to class and then spotted her on the other side of their classroom in the stately hall that served as the large classroom. She did not even look at him when she walked by him. Odd, he thought. Surely, she couldn’t be mad at him. A couple of hours later, he saw her again as they were leaving their French Revolution history class, the last one of the morning.
“Hey, Corinne, how’s it going? I really enjoyed getting to know you last night. That bar is a happening place.”
She looked at him for a second and then turned away and walked into one of the many small rooms nearby, clearly inviting him to follow. Jim tried to close the door, but it jammed, as did so many of the doors in the old house. He fussed with it for a moment before finally getting it to shut.
“I was thinking we might go somewhere this weekend, if you are up to that, maybe Paris.”
“You know, there is an honor code in this program. And when it comes to sex, the rule is that ‘no means no.’ Have you ever heard of that?”
“Sure I have.”
“You bet you have. And I said no, but you pushed me down. You know I didn’t want to have sex. You forced me. What happened last night was not right.”
“I don’t know what to say, Corinne. I thought you agreed. I don’t know what you are talking about. I thought we were friends. I really like you.”
She stared at him without blinking, hands on her hips. “You know what I am talking about. I never wanted to do anything like that.”
“You went along with everything we did. How can you possibly say that?”
“I can say it because it’s true.”
“Look, be reasonable. That’s not what happened at all.”
“Oh yes, that’s what happened. And that’s not all. You hit that man and you pushed him over. You didn’t have to do that. He was a drunk and he wasn’t going to do anything to you or to me. And you did not even want to stop and see what happened to him. I think you might have killed him.”
“I was trying to protect you. He grabbed you!”
“Oh, for God’s sake, he was harmless. What you did was unnecessary. And you made me rush away with you. You didn’t even want to stop and help him. That wasn’t right. You need to turn yourself into the police and tell them what happened. And you need to figure out why you didn’t stop when I told you to stop.”
“I don’t want to hear it. Not until you are ready to apologize. You need to stand up and do the right thing.”
She opened the door and walked away.  Jim looked at her, speechless, and then sat down. What was that all about? She couldn’t possibly be saying he raped her, but she was. He thought again about last night. Yes, they had been drinking, but he was sure she agreed to everything.

Ken Malovos has been practicing law in Sacramento for over forty years. He spent twelve years with the Public Defender’s Office and twenty-five years as a business litigator. He now serves full-time as a mediator and arbitrator. Ken has written two previous Mike Zorich novels and both have been recognized by Chanticleer Book Reviews. Contempt of Court was a First Place Category winner in the legal genre of the Mystery and Mayhem competition in 2014. Fatal Reunion was a finalist in the Thriller and Suspense competition in 2016. Ken and his wife live in Sacramento.


Where are you from?
Sacramento, CA
Tell us your latest news?
I just published my third novel, One Night In Amboise. I am quite excited about it. I think I am improving as a writer and learning so much. I am eager to share my new story with my readers. My first two novels were Contempt of Court in 2013 and Fatal Reunion in 2015. All are legal mysteries, set in Sacramento.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began fiction writing about ten years ago. I have been a trial lawyer for all of my career and I always thought I had a novel in my somewhere. As my career slowed down, I figured now was the time.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I self-published my first book and received some objective feedback that it was ok, I finally thought that maybe I was a writer. My friends and family encouraged me but then I won First Prize in the legal genre of a writing competition sponsored by Chanticleer Book Reviews. That award validated me as a writer, to some degree. Now, I am not saying that I am John Grisham or Scot Turow. But I believe that I have some talent and I want to continue to write.

What inspired you to write your first book?
True life events that I experienced in the courtroom and could not believe were happening, i.e., a lawyer being held in contempt of court and going to jail for no apparent reason. I added that to my long desire to write a novel. I suppose most lawyers want to write a novel and I was no exception. The learning process was most interesting. I love to read as well, so I have accumulated so many books on writing. And I have taken some online classes.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t think so. I spent more time now outlining than I used to but basically I just sit down and start writing. I love to write dialogue and to talk about characters and their views and quirks, etc. I am spending more time talking about the scene now, trying to allow the reader to imagine more than just the characters.

How did you come up with the title?
The story starts at an overseas campus program in Amboise, France , so the title just followed. I do spend some time in the story talking about France and the Loire Valley but then the story comes back to Sacramento and California, where most of the action happens.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes. Rape is a very hard event to come to grips with. Every woman is different and nobody should be judged by how they respond. For the man, the mere allegation of rape is also something that is very difficult to address. I hope the readers will entertain some sympathy for both the woman and the man in my story.

How much of the book is realistic?
I believe it is very realistic. I have done some research on the effect of rape on women and how different women react differently. I believe it is very important for us to understand that there is no time limit on when a woman will or should cope with a rape. There is no place for judgment.
I have also given a lot of thought to major figures in society who carry secrets with them for a long time and have wondered how they managed to cope. People like Dennis Hastert, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailles and Harvey Weinstein, for example. Eventually, the truth comes out and then it seems as if a volcano has erupted.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
No. This is entirely fiction.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The legal mysteries by John Lescroart. He writes about two characters in San Francisco, one a defense lawyer and the other a homicide inspector, who are always trying to solve crimes. They make a great team. Once you get to know all of his characters, it is great fun to see what kind of trouble they find and how they solve crimes. I also love John Gresham, Scott Turow and Mike Connelly, all of whom have great writing styles and make great stories.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
John Lescroart. He is just wonderful and he doesn’t live too far from me. He writes about San Francisco and I write about Sacramento.

What book are you reading now?

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. It is fiction and is about the mythical election of Charles Lindbergh in 1940 in lieu of Franklin Roosevelt. What would life have been like, if this happened?

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

No one that comes to mind. I probably need to spend more time with new authors.

What are your current projects?

A new story about killing with guns in our society.  I am just in the formative stage. I have a lot of research and just plain thinking to do. But I have a starting kernel.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members?
Chanticleer Book Reviews.

What would you like my readers to know?

Two things: I would like your readers to think how difficult it is to confront things in our past, sometimes, and I would hope that they would have sympathy for both my characters. 

His latest book is the legal mystery, ONE NIGHT IN AMBOISE.

Visit his website at

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