Sunday, March 31, 2019

Mom Approved

As a good son, when the new Jefferson Chene mystery was released, I sent a copy of to my dear sweet mother.  Ever since I started writing seriously, Mom has been interested in reading my efforts. 

When the first Jamie Richmond mystery “Devious” was published, I made sure she got a copy. Now, in my eyes, that’s another mystery. But the Jamie series includes a fair bit of romance and passion between Jamie and Malone, the guy she meets along the way who captures her heart.

So a few weeks later, I was visiting Mom when she mentioned the book. I asked for her reaction. She gave me a sweet smile and said ‘you must have done a lot of research.’  

That was it. No further comment or explanation. My darling wife cracked up. On the drive home, she asked what I thought that meant. “It could be about the police investigation. Or maybe about the romantic parts.” We’ll never know for sure. 

So this week I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Mom. She was absolutely delighted with “Your Turn to Die”.   Every part of the story was enjoyable.  Turns out she’d shared this news the night before with my kid brother and was telling all of her friends how much she liked the book.

So there you go.

Mom approved.

How sweet it is. 

Here’s an excerpt from “Your Turn to Die”.  In this scene, Chene is summoned to meet with Leo Agonasti, a retired mobster who has an interest in all things related to Motown, especially crime and Chene’s investigations. The conversation takes place about Agonasti’s new yacht, in the middle of Lake St. Clair.

I nudged the throttles and felt the wind tug at my clothes. This far out on the lake, no remote microphones would be effective. Although he was retired, I was sure Agonasti was still under the surveillance of some kind of a task force.

“What do you think, Jeff?”

“Hell of a ride. Why don’t you run it?”

He shrugged his thick shoulders. “Never learned how. Figured it was easier to have someone else who feels comfortable at the helm. I wouldn’t have been able to back her out of the dock.”

“Just takes practice.”

“It wouldn’t be right if I had trouble handling it. May give people the wrong impression. And I certainly don’t want that.”

I thought about that. Pity the fool who joked about Agonasti’s inability to dock a boat. If the old rumors were true, he’d find a dozen painful ways to make the person regret their comments.

“So how’s the homicide investigation coming?” Agonasti had carried the tea up with him and was twirling his glass slowly, watching the ice cubes roll around the rim.

“Typical. Chasing down leads, talking to his contacts. Same old song and dance.” I shifted my eyes from the water to him. “You ever meet?”

Agonasti merely shook his head.

“Then why the interest?”

“I’m interested in many things, especially when someone is brutally murdered. A family man, too.”

“Are you referring to that in the traditional sense?”

His face split into a wide grin. “That’s what I like about you, Jeff. Always straight to the point. No pulling punches.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

Again the grin. “See what I mean. No, Morrissey was not connected with any organized crime syndicate.”

“So there must be some reason his death peaks your interest?”

“I like old movies. Kick it up a notch.”

I increased the throttles to three-quarter speed. He’d tell me what was on his mind when he was ready. I leaned back in the chair and sipped my tea, one hand loosely on the wheel. 

We continued running northeast, across Lake St. Clair in the general direction of Port Huron. Agonasti gestured toward the right and I fell into the wake of an ore freighter that was headed in the same direction.

“Morrissey’s murder appeared to be an execution,” Leo said. “It made me curious. I’ve asked around. No one had any dealings with him. Whoever killed him might have been attempting to steer the investigation away and focus it on the family.”

I shrugged. “Makes sense. Shot at close range. Not as messy as through the ear, but just as effective.”

“Killers today don’t have the stomach for a signature hit. They don’t want to get their Guccis dirty. Most hits nowadays are as subtle as a drive-by shooting.”

“So you wanted to make sure we don’t waste our time searching for any organized crime connections?”

Agonasti’s head bobbed slowly on his shoulders. “Trail’s getting cold, Jeff. Whoever did this to Morrissey shouldn’t get away with it. Guy was a straight arrow. Wife and kids and all that jazz.”

By the way, if you prefer audio books to print or electronic versions, both Chene mysteries are now available on Audible.  Here's a link to the new one. 

A little variety in this week's music selection.  Here's a great R & B tune from Freddie Jackson.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Interview with Jamie Richmond

With the release of “Your Turn to Die” the second book in the Jefferson Chene series, we get the opportunity to meet some new characters.  One of those is Jamie Richmond, who plays an important role in the story. 

Tell us a little about yourself.  I’m a novelist now, focusing on mysteries. Early thirties, with red hair that helps me stand out in the crowd.  I have a stubborn streak (big surprise with a redhead, right?) but that’s just part of the real me. 

How did your background get you involved in this novel?  Well, I started out in journalism, working as an investigative reporter for one of Detroit’s major newspapers. I did that for a long time, sharpening my skills as a writer and honing my talents at getting to the bottom of a story.  Then I went freelance for a couple of years, writing features for magazines before getting up the nerve to focus on a novel. The first one was a hit and things took off from there. 

Who came first, you or the author? (laughs raucously). He likes to think I’m the product of his imagination. All he does is document my adventures and mischief. (more laughter). All right, he was here first. Of course, he’s old enough to remember the band Paul McCarthy was with back in the 70s.

What’s your greatest strength?   And of course, we want to know the opposite, your greatest weakness. My greatest strength is probably my determination. I’m also very loyal and have an excellent memory.  As to weakness, I don’t have the greatest track record with romances, but there’s this guy whose been in the picture for a while. I think he plans on sticking around.

What is it about this mystery that sets it apart from the others? Chene’s cases are always complicated. Many people thought the victim of this homicide was a nice, successful businessman who was a real philanthropist. While he was generous, Morrissey was also a bit of a slime ball.  Chene and his team have their hands full trying, with more than a hundred suspects to consider as they try to find the killer. But each time he turns around, Chene keeps coming up with more questions than answers.

Tell us something about your background that may or may not be revealed in the book?
Chene and I met about a year ago. He’s an old friend of the guy I’m involved with, who is also a cop. Chene and his partner actually rescued me and my best friend. We were in a freezing river, trying to get away from her kidnapper.  Every time I cross paths with Chene since then, I thank him with a real kiss. I think these displays of affection rattle him. (laughs again). Which of course is part of the reason why I like to do it!

Here's a photo of what Jamie may look like.

Are you the type of person who always seeks out the company of others? I am.  While I have a few real close friends, it’s easy for me to connect with other people. A lot of that went with the territory when I was working as a reporter.  Part of that may also have something to do with being a redhead!

Which do you prefer, music or television? Music is part of life. I can’t work in silence, which is something that author guy and I have in common. I’m a sucker for jazz, big band music and rock and roll.  

Who’s your best friend and what influence have they had on your life?
Linda is my best friend. We’ve been like sisters since we were in the first grade. She’s my sounding board, my rock, the one person I’ve always been able to count on, no matter what’s happening in life.

Anything else you’d like to share? Well, not to take anything away from Chene, but this author guy actually wrote several novels based on my own adventures, and a really good short story about a vacation Linda and I took to South Haven. (laughs) So it’s like the old question about which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Was it me, or was it Chene?


Here's a scene from "Your Turn to Die".  Part of the investigation into Kyle Morrissey's homicide has Chene wondering where he originally got the money to start his business.  Knowing that Jamie Richmond had interviewed Morrissey previously, he reaches out to her.

It was an hour before Jamie called back.

“Sorry, Chene, but I’m adjusted to Malone’s schedule. Neither one of us is functioning before nine. And even then it requires massive doses of caffeine.”

“No problem. I wanted to thank you again for your notes on Morrissey.”

“I hope they were helpful.”

“Indeed. But that leads me to a question. Do you know how he put together the money to buy the Shores Madrid?”

Dead silence followed for so long I thought the connection broke. I was about to check and see if there was still a signal when Jamie cursed.

“I don’t know. But that’s something I should have looked into when researching him. Damn it! How did I miss it?”

“You’re not the only one. Everything I can find seems to look like he just appeared on the scene at a city council meeting, with a proposal to buy the property for the amount of taxes due. Somewhere along the way, the theater had been foreclosed and the city ended up with it. They must have carried the previous owner’s debt in the hopes that they’d be able to bring it back.”

“But that doesn’t explain where he got the money.” There was a flicker of excitement in her voice. “I never saw anything about investors, silent or otherwise. There was nothing on the corporate records at the time beyond his wife and a couple of key people in management. I looked!”

“So you have any ideas about the money?”

“None.” She paused, as if weighing the options. “But I can look into it. I still have a lot of contacts. I’ll pull court records, public information, talk to a few friends and see what I can learn. This is important, isn’t it?”

“It could be.” I hesitated, weighing my options. “I can’t ask you to do this, Jamie. I’ll put one of the detectives on it.”

There was another pause, followed by a loud, raucous laugh. “Bullshit, Chene. You called me hoping I’d jump in.”

“No, I called you to ask about the money, not to draw you into part of an active police investigation.” I managed to sound sincere.

“You’re full of shit, Chene. And I’ll let you know when I have some answers.” Jamie was still laughing as she ended the call.

Some variety on the music scene this week, which was mostly jazz. But this rock and roll standard from Joan Jett popped up twice.  Enjoy!