William Diehl was a New York Times bestselling author. He passed away almost five years ago and his last book, Seven Ways To Die, begins with a touching note written by his widow, Virginia Gunn Diehl. She writes: “He completed over four hundred pages of Seven Ways To Die. He loved this book…He was sorry that he couldn’t complete his final project. He worked so hard on it for several years. He was proud of it.”
His widow goes on to say that her husband’s friend of 25 years, Ken Atchity, did his best to “make sure that Bill’s book would see the light of day.” Ken Atchity is a talented author himself, having written 15 of his own books, and he is the producer of 30 films.
Atchity understood his friend’s writing style and used notes and an outline left by Bill Diehl to complete the book. Ken Atchity’s contribution doesn’t disappoint the reader and he fulfilled Virginia Diehl’s wish; that her husband’s fans would have one more opportunity to enjoy his craft.
Seven Ways To Die is a work of fiction, written in third person, published by AEI/Story Merchant Books. It’s a suspenseful, crime whodunit, laced with colorful characters and an intriguing plot. The main character, Cody, is a 30-something NYPD captain of homicide, who founded a special unit known as TAZ which stands for “The Tactical Assistance Squad.” He’s trying to catch a serial killer, all the while being hounded by a pompous crime writer named Ward Hamilton.
The reader learns that Cody grew up in Idaho on the Nez Perce Reservation. As a boy, he learned to be in tune with nature. He has a special connection, even mystical tie, with animals, and is mysteriously able to communicate with them. Cody learned at a young age to read “signs” of nature and this innate skill helps him as a homicide detective.
We are introduced to Cody at age 13, but the story quickly jumps to the present; Cody working Homicide with the NYPD. The author’s spine-tingling descriptions make the reader feel like they are in the room with the first victim, Melinda. As the tension builds, you quickly feel Melinda’s terror and won’t want to put the book down (I had to keep flipping the pages to see what would happen next).
Diehl had a powerful gift for creating images painted with his words. Be it the beautiful Nez Perce Reservation, the dark and secretive sex clubs, victim number two’s posh brownstone or the ghoulish murder scenes, each chapter descriptively sets the stage for a 294-page story that moves at top speed.
The late writer was also a master at character development. He’s able to make you feel the melancholy of the tough and now sober Detective Frank Rizzo, as he enters his small apartment, on the anniversary of his wife’s passing.
On page 160,Diehl writes:
“He got a glass, pored himself a glass of ginger ale, went in the living room and turned on the television set. When the remote turned up nothing of interest, he put on the DVD of “West Side Story” and as the overture began, he slumped down in his easy chair and let memories envelope him like a warm blanket.” [The reader learned earlier that the couple’s first date was spent seeing the movie.]
The characters in this novel amuse, entertain, confuse and mesmerize. From Amelie Cluett, the exotically beautiful masseuse, to Victoria, the sexually deviant lover of crime writer and flamboyant columnist, Ward Hamilton, each character packs a punch, adding dazzle to this superb drama.
Seven Ways To Die was William Diehl’s last (literary) love and the people who loved him made sure his hard work was not done to no avail . It was the inspiration of Virginia Gunn Diehl, the dedication of Ken Atchity, the forensics contributions from Dr. Brett Bartlett, M.D., and the persistence and hard work of others that made Seven Ways To Die more than a suspenseful, top notch thriller. It is a labor of love, and like a diamond, it’s a brilliant and valuable gift left by Diehl and his wife to all his fans.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of William Diehl’s New York Times Best Sellers (Primal Fear or Sharky’s Machine), I urge you to pick up Seven Ways To Die. It’s a fabulous read and in my opinion, if made into a movie, would become a box office hit.
In closing, I’d like to point out that Diehl dedicated Seven Ways To Die as follows: “For Virginia – She endured.” And because of Virginia’s great love for her husband, his last writing will endure and be enjoyed for eternity.