S.A.Q.

Seldom-Asked Questions

For Mike

Q: You’re reaching the end of a 40-plus-year broadcasting career. Anything you’ll miss?

A: Only the payola. Nobody ever offered me any. In my early years I might have jumped at the chance to make a few extra bucks. The closest I came was when someone threatened to kill me if I ever played “Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks again. That’s kind of reverse payola.

Q: What have you been reading lately?

A: I’m fascinated by the era of history toward the end of the 19th century and early 20th. I like Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lucas. It’s about the bombing murder of the former Idaho governor in 1905. It’s wrapped up in the labor unrest of the time, and includes, among other real-life characters, Clarence Darrow. Along the same lines, I just finished reading American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum. It’s about the bombing of the Los Angeles Times in 1910 which killed more than 30 people and was also the result of labor unrest. Once again Clarence Darrow is a central figure, along with D.W. Griffith and the man they called “America’s Greatest Detective,” Billy Burns.

Q: How do you feel about your Devil’s Harbor Books coming out through Krill Press.

A: Terrific. They’re Oregon-based and it’s nice they landed with an Oregon publisher. In rereading them in preparation for writing the third book in the series, I’m amazed at how the characters still have the ability to make me laugh. I look forward to them finding readers who enjoy murder mysteries with a comic edge.

Q: What else are you up to these days?

A: Along with trying to get myself to the gym for my workouts and playing golf, I practice pocket billiards an average of 1-2 hours a day on my basement table. This in preparation for my scheme to augment my retirement income by taking Social Security checks away from the old gents at the local senior center. One of them, Fast Eddie Something or Other, seems particularly anxious to play me.

Q: Have you been writing?

A: Not so much, although I am plotting the new Devil’s Harbor book. As some of you may know, I have some attention span issues. Recently I took an 8-week auditioning technique class and participated in a city-wide audition run by the local theatre community to get a look-see at actors. At one point, I was up for a role in an independent movie called The Little Blue Pill. I won’t tell you the plot, but needless to say it did involve an unfortunate incident with a male-enhancement drug. I missed my first chance to play a doctor. I hope to be cast in a show sometime this winter.

For Carolyn

Q: Were you at Woodstock?

A: In town, yes. At the festival, no. Crowds bring out the claustrophobia in me and I was holding down a summer job working for an attorney, typing, filing, serving papers, being chased by people trying to give those papers back, and once having a gun held to my head by a man who really didn’t want to accept service.

My claim to fame concerning Woodstock is that I denied my mother her fifteen minutes of fame. When she hatched a plan to make hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, charter a helicopter, and drop them to the starving masses at the concert, I laughed and explained the difference between starving and simply having the munchies. That led to a lot of questions about how I came to be in possession of that information. Still, I kick myself on every anniversary of the event.

Q: Who’s your favorite author?

A: Jasper Fforde. The Thursday Next series is inspired madness. And his website . . . well, if you’re in need of a chuckle, check it out.

When it comes to mystery, I enjoy settings on foreign soil—Minette Walters, Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Deborah Crombie, Elizabeth George—but I’m also addicted to Loren Estleman, John Sandford, Robert Crais, T. Jefferson Parker, Dennis Lehane, and Kirk Mitchell. And I love getting goosebumps from John Connolly’s books.

Q: If you could be a character from a mystery, which character would you be?

A: Nero Wolfe. I could lounge around in a comfortable chair, read good books, order up gourmet meals without giving a hoot about fat or cholesterol, have an intrepid assistant to do my legwork, be as rude as I please, and have people think I’m brilliant. What’s not to like?

Q: Why do you write murder mysteries?

A: It’s a great stress-relief tool. When I wrote Consulted to Death, I was angry about the influence consultants had on television news. I killed one off in the first chapter and I felt much better. Now I regularly consider who I could bump off on paper—the guy texting while driving on the freeway, the clown who didn’t turn off his phone before the movie started, the loud talkers at the next table, the agent who . . . well, you get the drift.

Q: Given that you work as a substitute teacher, are you planning to set a mystery at a high school?

A: Funny you should ask. I’m working on one now.

Q: Mike’s been quoted as saying you alphabetize the dirty laundry. Is that true?

A: No. Just the clean stuff.

Q: What are your favorite foods?

A: Cheetos, cashews, and Coconut rum. Also chocolate—but only the dark kind. If a food doesn’t fit the alliteration, I don’t waste my calorie allotment on it.

Q: How do you two manage to live and write together?

A: With great difficulty. Did I mention that I’m a Virgo? And I’m stubborn. Fortunately, Mike is mellow, forgiving, and hates to argue. Oh, and I don’t fight fair. Other than that, I’m a wonderful person.