Category Archives: Short Stories

The Penitent Thief (The Agora Mystery Series Book 2)

My new short story/novelette in the Agora Society series:

The Penitent Thief 

A string of thefts ends in a grisly murder. Certain evidence leads Captain Barnwell to suspect a former thief, Rutherford Nordlinger as the culprit. Carl Brooke becomes personally involved as Nordlinger’s guilt is questioned.

In the style of Arthur Conan Doyle, CJ Martin brings back the Agora Society and its premiere scholar, Carl Brooke. This is the second in the Agora Series, the first being, Two Tocks before Midnight.

2015-03-07_2128I have a lot of fun writing these stories. I actually have a third mostly completed, but I have several other projects that I’m trying to finish up first.

That’s one of my problems. I have too many pots cooking.

I have books, ebooks, iPhone apps, physical products, and websites that all need my attention. To make matters worse, I went in several directions at once with my writing. I have the Agora Series, the Temporal Series, the Tanaka Series–as well as a new children’s book series about a Messianic Jewish boy detective. It’s all fun, but being spread out so makes it hard for any one series to get any traction. Each series speaks to a totally different audience.

That being said, I am thrilled The Penitent Thief is finished. I actually started this story over two years ago. I had to do a reality check on our finances and for the past year and a half, I really haven’t done much writing. After the first of the year, I returned to writing and The Penitent Thief was the first fruits.


I’m even more thrilled about The Penitent Thief’s first review:

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This author has it going as to short historical mysteries modeled on the works of Arthur Conan Doyle with a compelling story line, great mix of characters and a superb finish that had me guessing! I’m going to have to go back and grab “Two Tocks Before Midnight” as well which was the first book in the Agora Society series just as soon as I finish reading “Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter” since I’ve got that one waiting for me in my archives. My newest favorite author – great stuff!

I’m simply floored.

Thank you, Mr. Kidwell!

Two Tocks Before Midnight Audiobook Review

Two Tocks before Midnight Audiobook Review

Narrator Reviews has just reviewed CJ Martin’s novella, Two Tocks Before Midnight here. Wayne Farrell did a fantastic job with the sound as the review says.

I only have only good things to say about this narrator. Farrrell’s voice is rich, deep, and clear. He gives an excellent presentation of the text parts, as well as in expressing the characters. Farrell, has a good handle on proper emphasis, so each character is easily distinguished.

Click here to hear it at Audible: Two Tocks Before Midnight, C J Martin, Narrator, Wayne Farrell

And here is a link to the ebook version at Amazon.


Two Tocks before Midnight Audiobook Sample

Two Tocks before Midnight by CJ Martin & Narrated by Wayne Farrell (Right click to download)

The audiobook is finished! It should hit the digital shelves of iTunes,, and Amazon MP3 very soon.

Here is the ebook on Amazon and on B&N. I only have four reviews on Amazon and zero on–if you would like a free review copy, please let me know.

Blog Announcement: Two Tocks Before Midnight Audio Book Cover Art

Wayne Farrell, who has a wonderful and quite appropriate voice for the story, has agreed to record it as an audio ebook. More on this later…

Here is the working cover art that I just finished.

I hope to be able to post examples of Mr. Farrell’s talent soon, but until then… Two Tocks, the Audio Book, is coming soon!

If you haven’t read the novella, please check it out at Amazon, here.

Michael Crichton’s Akira Tanaka vs CJ Martin’s Akira Tanaka

I really thought that I had posted this many months ago, but after a search, I realized I had simply emailed a few friends about it.

When I finally got around to reading Rising Sun by Michael Crichton (I’ve never seen the movie) last year, I noticed that on page 334, there is a character called, “Akira Tanaka.”

That is the name of my hero in the Tanaka stories.

Of course, both “Akira” and “Tanaka” are very common names, but I thought it was amusing.

We don’t know too much about Crichton’s Akira Tanaka–I believe that may be the only place in his novel–but my Akira Tanaka is tough. To prove that point, here is a 1,500 short story detailing an event in Tanaka’s past: (I just realized that this story takes place before he took on the name “Akira”–oh, well.)


Tanaka & the Oyabun




Sweat beaded and rolled across Kazuo Kobayashi’s forehead.  His head was tilted to better examine the pattern of tile set on the wall.  Something about it had caught his eye, keeping his mind well away from the life-changing choice he had only a few hours to make. Water dripped in constant two-second intervals from the 1960s era bathtub faucet.

He cradled the bottleneck of his still cold beer between his thumb and forefinger, dangling it over the edge and allowing it to melodiously ding against the acrylic tub. The cold liquid provided a sharp contrast to the steamy bath.

 A few inches from the drink was his SIG P230. The steam wasn’t good for the gun, but in case of an intruder, it would be good for his health. His other hand played absently with the bullet wound on his side. It had been years and yet the scar still seemed foreign to him.

The typical Japanese bath consisted of two rooms: A changing area and a room with a tub and shower. He had already showered away the grime, but the scars remained–the scars always remained.

He thought about his “choice.” The Tsugawara yakuza knew he had killed their boss, the Oyabun. The Tokyo Police had provided this apartment as a safe house, but there was no full-fledged Witness Protection Program. He knew they would find him eventually.

The American offer of asylum and a new identity was appealing. But this meant he would leave Japan. His friends, his family–they would all be made to believe that he was dead.

He continued trying to discover meaning from the tiles while mulling over the choice in his mind. Of course, there really wasn’t a choice. If he stayed in Japan, he was a dead man.

A series of noises broke his focus from the tiles. The Yorkshire Terrier next door was barking as if someone had stepped on its tail. His neighbor was the only other apartment on the second floor. An intruder would have to pass by the small dog’s window. That dog never missed a visitor.

Must be Kawasaki’s lady friend, Kazuo thought as he relaxed and took a swig from his beer.  No, it’s close to midnight.

Kawasaki-san was in his late seventies and tended to retire before nine. Kazuo set his bottle down and grasped the gun. He lifted his toe to silence the drip. The gentle swishing of displaced water soon gave way to silence.  The dog also stopped barking.

Kazuo listened.

After a few minutes of not hearing anything, his eyes turned back to the tiles and his muscles relaxed. His heavy foot sank back into the water.

Looking just above the troublesome faucet, he had a flush of remembrance. He understood why the tiles had caught his attention. The colors were a match. The crimson blood had stained the same pale blue tile floor. It was the yakuza boss’s blood.

Just then, Kazuo heard a different noise.  It was low, soft, and tinny through the bathroom wall, but Kazuo recognized the sound as coming from the television and increasing in volume.

Sounds of children laughing blared through the walls. In an instant, Kazuo was out of the tub with a towel draped around his waist, dripping water into a drain in the center of the room.

With the gun held level to his eyes, he threw open the inner bathroom door. The outer bathroom room was empty.

The television changed to a commercial.

He continued toward the sliding glass door. The frosted glass had a sliver shaved off. He put his eye to the sliver. There appeared to be no one on the other side. After the peek, he realized the light behind him would have cast his shadow broadly for anyone on the other side to see.


But no one took the shot.

Rushing to the far side, he ducked behind the wall. While extending his left hand to slide the door open, his right hand held his gun with an unyielding grip.

The door slammed open against the butt of the doorframe making entirely too much noise. Kazuo had expected someone there, an ambush. But no bullets came flying; no yakuza rushed in.

The sound from the television changed to half volume.

Someone was in the living room, toying with him.

Kazuo lifted his weapon and followed it through the outer bathroom doorway into the middle room that was used for storage. The light escaping from the bathroom revealed nothing out of the ordinary.

He rushed, light-footed, to the wall, peering through the far doorway into the kitchen. On the cabinets, he could see soft, pulsating flashes of blueish light reflected from the television one small room away.

He crouched near the kitchen. He heard no sounds and saw no movement except that from the television. The volume was now low, but loud enough to mask any stealthy movements.

He took a quick glance left and right and saw no one hiding in the kitchen. Gripping his gun with both hands, he leaned in toward the living room.

There, on the couch, sat a man. As an affront to Japanese sensibilities, he had his shoes on. The light from the television tinted his features with varying colors and intensities. He didn’t move, but he was staring directly at Kazuo.


His weaponless arms were sprawled out on either side of the back rail of the couch. He propped his shoe upon the cushion.

“I’m a little surprised you didn’t install a dead-bolt.”

Kazuo aimed the gun at the man and inched forward. The stranger didn’t flinch. He eyed the intruder’s shoes–white oxfords, impeccably clean, but the leather was mature, well worn. The white boldly stuck out from under the navy blue pant legs. He wore a white tuxedo shirt with a ruffled front.

Seeing Kazuo’s eyes, the man said, “A bit overdressed, I admit. But, really, Kazuo, you could have done better than a cotton towel. Not even monogrammed.”

“Who are you?” Kazuo asked.

“I’ve been overseas. I came when I heard my brother had been murdered.”

Kazuo looked into the man’s eyes. He saw the resemblance. This was the brother of the leader of the yakuza he had killed.

“I have no quarrel with you,” Kazuo said. He was puzzled why the man seemed so relaxed, sitting on the couch without a weapon. He risked a glance to his left and right but saw no one else.

“That may be true, but I have a quarrel with you.”

“I have you at a disadvantage,” Tanaka said taking a step forward still holding his gun tight on target. “Get up and leave now.”

The man on the couch burst out in laughter. “Drop your weapon,” the man said, standing up.

Kazuo felt a cold, steel muzzle touch his left ear. There had been a man in the room. He’d come from a dark corner not illuminated by the television.

“Drop it.”

Kazuo slowly set the gun on the floor.

“Good.” The man in front of the couch reached inside his jacket for his Beretta 92. He continued speaking, waving the pistol freely as if to aide comprehension.

“I suppose I should thank you. My brother and I weren’t without our disagreements–which is why I have spent the past few years in South America,” the man said, before leveling the gun at Kazuo. “Thank you.” The yakuza smiled. “But I’m afraid you will still have to die.”

Kazuo could hear the man behind him shift his footing, getting out of the line of shot.

“Kuro-san, why don’t we let them find Mr. Kobayashi in his birthday suit. Would you mind removing his towel?”

Kuro-san let out a grunt and began to pull on the tucked-in towel.

Kazuo allowed the man to turn him around, unwinding. Just as the end of the towel whipped off his body, Kazuo grabbed the cloth and yanked the man toward him. The startled Kuro-san tightened his grip and leaned in. Kazuo jumped behind the intruder, wrapping his arms around his neck. Kazuo’s other hand reached for the yakuza’s gun but failed to reach it.

Two shots rang out: loud, ear piercing in the small room. The man in the tuxedo shirt had panicked when he saw Kazuo move.

One shot went into the wall; the other went into Kuro-san’s belly.

Kazuo continued to use Kuro-san as a human shield as he successfully grabbed the gun. His arm shot out from over Kuro-san’s shoulder. The yakuza was alive, but bleeding a fountain from his belly.

“Drop it and leave.”

Kuro-san was moaning and losing strength. Kazuo kicked him toward the other man.

The Oyabun’s brother smiled and holstered his gun.

“Come on Kuro.”

Kuro-san staggered out behind the other man. Kazuo closed the door behind them and turned on the lights to make sure there were no hidden intruders. He was alone.

Kazuo made the decision. He would no longer be Kazuo Kobayashi. Who he would become and what he would do from here on was up for grabs. But he would take the Americans up on their offer.


New Review for Two Tocks Before Midnight!

George Polley–the author of Grandfather and the Raven and the Old Man and the Monkey–kindly wrote a review for Two Tocks before Midnight.

5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable pre-Civil War mystery, March 24, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Two Tocks before Midnight (Kindle Edition)

Having read C. J. Martin’s “Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter”, I was surprised to see him appear with a mid-19th century murder mystery. The surprise was very much worth the read. Short, fast=paced and with an ending that surprised me. Very well-done, Mr. Martin.

I did do a review for one of his books, but I wasn’t expecting this review. He just happened to discover that I had it out, read it, and left his review.

Thank you Mr. Polley!

Get it today for only .99!

Two New Reviews for “Two Tocks Before Midnight”

Yesterday, I received an email from Adrian Magson–the British spy/thriller writer. Last month, I had asked if he wouldn’t mind reading Two Tocks Before Midnight and then promptly forgot about it. His email yesterday pointed me to his review on Whohoo!

First, I have to say that I am deeply honored that Mr. Magson would read my stuff and thrilled that he would take the time to review it. I highly recommend his two Harry Tate thrillers Red Station (see my review here) and Tracers (my review forthcoming).

4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, February 20, 2012
This review is from: Two Tocks before Midnight (Kindle Edition)

I found this a pleasant change to read, harking back in style and language to the writing of Poe and others, but with a slight modern twist. Good story and atmospheric portrayal of characters and setting.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about that.

THEN, this morning, I had another surprise. Yet another review!

5.0 out of 5 stars Tick Tock Totally Worth Reading!, February 20, 2012
Lyne Frost (Vancouver, Washington) – See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Two Tocks before Midnight (Kindle Edition)

I was enthralled with the story Sherlock Holmes-esk, the story is unique and fun to read. A short story that isn’t bogged down with unnecessary verbage or so thin that a reader is left wondering what is going on. The writting brings me back to nostalgic readings of classic literature.

Lyne, I do not know you, but THANK YOU!

If anyone would like to read Two Tocks Before Midnight (about 10,000 words–a long short story or short novella) for free (whether or not you write a review), please contact me via this website.

Thank you,


The Captain’s Play: Two Tocks before Midnight — Released and FREE (today)

After a series of updates (I would find a missing comma, insert it, upload the ebook, and find another one…), I’m pleased to announce Two Tocks before Midnight is available for public consumption, a 9,500 word short novella or long novellete murder mystery.

It is currently available only at through the KDP Select program, but I will probably only do that the first three months.

Here is the first thousand words:

October 24th, 1859
Carl Brooke



I have never been fond of sentimental ramblings so I will keep this short.  Indeed, if not for the insistence of my friends, I would just as soon let the matter slip away with the sands of time.  But repeated pleas from the curious and the morbid compel me to share with you the strange affair of October 24th, 1859.

I can’t even say with certitude that the events of that date occurred exactly as I remember them.  As time passes, so do the minute and myriad details; rough edges are made smooth and the inevitable romanticizing of the past plays havoc with true fact.

Still, as I am a Christian and an honest man, what follows is as accurate as my fallible mind can relate.

Nearly two score years separate us from those days and that night in particular.  I, alone—so I am told—am survived out of the lot of us. 

Our society had a dozen members at its zenith. 

Each brought to the group his individual talents and ambitions.  Mine lay in ancient Near Eastern languages.  To give a brief sampling of the others pertinent to our discussion, Dr. Christopher Harding was an expert in papyrus, cuneiform, and writing methods of antiquity; Mr. Thomas Phillips was skilled at ancient weaponry; and of course there was Mr. Charles Tock who could converse in thirteen languages and read five more. Charles Tock and Thomas Phillips are of special interest to our story.

Before I begin about the events of that night, I think it important to share a little more about our group.

We called it the Agora.  It was to be an open marketplace to foster ideas for the betterment of man.  That was the name; the structure, however, was modeled after Dr. Franklin’s Junto society.  In a show of hubris that even today causes me to cower with embarrassment, our charter set forth the goal of leaving to the world a greater legacy than that of the good Doctor.  Indeed, we had the mind to compete with the man who “took lightning from the sky and the scepter from the tyrant’s hand” as Turgot put it.  He surely laughs at my friends in the hereafter.  There are times I fear I hear his laughter echoing in my dreams, beckoning for me to come.

I do not think it wrong, however, to recollect our accomplishments as humble as they may be when held to Dr. Franklin’s light.

We established a Freeman’s society which secured the release of one hundred and thirty-six Negroes.  Our society also made sure these men and women were taught a trade and their letters.  It is of considerable pride to report nearly all of them transitioned well after the war.  Indeed, several families prospered.  To this day, there is no greater joy than to receive a letter or a visit from one of the families.

It is also true that our services were used on a number of occasions by the police, as this letter will attest.  Though small, we were well-connected and able, by merit of our collective talents, to be of some value to law enforcement.

We financed the repairing of the dam in Clarkesville, which was completed a mere month before the great flood of fifty-six.  Several of us were involved with building libraries, windmills, schoolhouses, and churches.

In short, our efforts saved the lives of hundreds of mortal and immortal souls.  However, again remembering our foolish goal, Dr. Franklin’s invention of the simple lightning rod alone, has surely saved millions.

We met every Monday night precisely at six in the evening.  If someone was absent or tardy, he was made to do “community service.”  This usually meant clearing the streets of horse manure.  The honor of such a job was a great incentive to show up on time and it was a rare occasion when one of us did not.

Charles Tock came to us a few years before the events of that dreadful night.  (As a matter of protocol we all referred to each other by our first names no matter our age or status outside the Agora.) I distinctly remember Charles’ introduction the first time he appeared before our group.  I relate it now because it accurately illustrates his dry humor and breadth of knowledge.

“My name is Charles,” he said, pausing to allow his eyes to greet each of us.  “That can’t be helped, but I always intended to marry royalty to avoid being churlish.” 

Only a few of us caught the etymological jesting.  Having a name, Carl, that shares the same cognate as Charles, namely “churl,” I was one of them.  “Churl,” as you know, came to mean the opposite of nobility, a rude man somewhat above a peasant.

Despite his poor taste in arcane humor, his broad knowledge and experience soon propelled him to something of an elder position among us.  Most of us at the time were, after all, two decades his junior.

Many people have asked me if we suspected anything unusual about him from the beginning. Well, we all knew that he could be willing to compromise his principles to get what he wanted. He had demonstrated this vice in small ways over the few years we knew him. Still, none of us anticipated his spectacular downfall.

He came suddenly, and one winter morning, he left just as suddenly—and without telling anyone.  As I have mentioned before, missing even a single meeting was heavily discouraged.  It was doubly shocking considering how integral he had made himself to the club. 

On the third meeting after his initial absence, it was decided a party should be sent to learn what had become of him.  The talk of discipline from the week before turned to genuine concern.  I was not chosen to join the search party, but I did hear their report.  His lodgings—the address he gave in the society’s records was an abandoned slaughterhouse.  As it turned out, no member had visited Charles outside club meetings during the time he had been with us.

But the mystery was only to begin.

For more, please go to Amazon to download it.  It will remain free through tomorrow (1-11-12).  After that, it will only be .99.


Two Tocks Before Midnight eBook Cover

I’m about to release a 9,500 word novelette. It will also include the 500 word The Handkerchief (click to read here).

Here is the cover:

Here is my tentative product description:



The Strange Affair of October 24th, 1859

A flurry of forgeries appear in museums and among collectors. The members of the Agora, a society dedicated to the betterment of man, have taken it upon themselves to stop the rogues.

But among the forgers, there is a murderer.

I have never been fond of sentimental ramblings so I will keep this short.  Indeed, if not for the insistence of my friends, I would just as soon let the matter slip away with the sands of time.  But repeated pleas from the curious and the morbid compel me to share with you the strange affair of October 24th, 1859.

Nearly forty years after the incident, Carl Brooke recalls his part in unravelling a mystery that was for decades left unresolved.

A member of the Agora Society goes missing only to reappear months later with a stranger and an ancient parchment. The scroll is thought to be the lost Book of Jasher and dated 9th century B.C.

The Paleo-Hebrew was consistent; the gevil sheepskin scroll was as one would expect. It seemed authentic.

Then I saw something that would lead to the death of three souls…

On the night of October 24th, 1859, death, lies, and jealousies abound. Only one man, Carl Brooke, has the knowledge and expertise to stop the murderer. But will he succeed?

The Handkerchief – A Short Story by CJ Martin

My wife was to come in on the last flight of the night.  She had been staying with her sister saying she needed “her space.”  I had a feeling this time around, she had returned only to collect her things.

Having found a plug just outside the terminal parking lot, I decided to charge my laptop and work on a spreadsheet before heading in.  It had been a long day at the office and finding a plug in a secluded and lonely place seemed fortuitous.

I hunkered down in a darkish corner as travelers went from cars to planes and back again. Fascinated by the faces of the hurried people, I abandoned my spreadsheet, eventually closing the laptop completely.

No doubt, anyone would have noticed me staring if they had simply turned to look, but no one did.  My dark suit and the poor lighting helped, but I think it was something else: for most, destinations and goals are all there is.

For most, but not all.

I had never witnessed such sadness.  The boy was flying out and the girl was there to see him off.  He was decked out in full uniform with a duffel bag at his feet; she wore a flowery summer dress much too happy for their despondent quality.  Her bright lipstick was somehow dulled by the sadness in her eyes.  Neither, it seemed, had the courage to say, “Good-bye.”

He lifted his hands to caress her cheeks.  For a moment, I thought he was about to kiss her, but his eyes revealed a man busy memorizing his lover’s features.  Every shape and line, it all had meaning.

A tinny speaker announced that boarding had begun.  The message didn’t seem to register until he let his arms drop.  Her eyes puffed red as tears began to swell.

He pulled out a handkerchief–it was pale, green army issue.  She wiped both eyes before kissing it, imparting both lipstick and tears to the cloth.  Handing it back, he accepted it, his eyes never leaving hers.

She mouthed some unknown words, turned, and then fled toward the parking lot with her head buried in her hands.

His straight figure slumped as she disappeared into the darkness.  The handkerchief, he lovingly folded and placed in the side pocket of his duffle bag.

It was the speaker again–this time announcing final boarding. In a hurried motion, he snapped his hand from the side pocket unknowingly exposing the cherished cloth.   With a flick of his wrist, he threw the bag over his shoulder.  A moment later, the man was gone; only the handkerchief remained.

I sat there stunned, unable to move.  Coming to my senses, my first thought was to rush to the fallen handkerchief and find that soldier.

But as my thoughts began to translate into action, a green vested airport worker appeared where the forlorn lovers had been.  She held metal tongs as if the precious article was hazardous material. A moment later, the lipstick, tears, and cloth were gone.

Rarely do emotions get the better of me.  But after packing my laptop, I headed straight to the airport gift shop.  The flowers made my wife smile–the first time in years.

And now, ten years later, I still buy flowers and she still smiles.  I can say with certitude it is because of that handkerchief–a handkerchief long forgotten by all but me.