Monday, October 12, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear Guy,
I've been reading Wallace Stegner's Wolf Willow, an autobiography tracing paths of his early life near Whitemud, Saskatchewan, Canada. It's a story about the landscape and history of the opening of the West. Do you know if Stegner ever asked his students (Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Sandra Day O'Connor and others) this question: "If a chicken-and-a-half lays an egg-and-a-half in a day-and-a-half, how many eggs will nine chickens lay in ten days?"
And what if he did: would you?
Joe Yak from East of Tomales

Dear Joe,
It was actually Stegner's student (Ken Kesey) who posed this question to another of the students you mention (Sandra Day O'Connor) to determine whether or not she could board the Magic Bus called Further. Her answer not only allowed her to ride the bus but has since been cited as a defining moment in Westward Expansion. Coincidentally, the bus driver (Neal Cassady) was asked by Kesey why he married a chicken, and Cassady replied, "Because I had to."
Would I? I think I'll brood on that for a while.

"Spell-binding! The Jaguar Tree is a splendid novel!"
Ernest Hemingway*

*(Probation officer, Bakersfield, CA)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear Guy of Mystery,
One of my favorite authors is Joel Chandler Harris. Although I haven't actually read anything he wrote, I love the Uncle Remus stories. I guess they inspired Walt Disney's Song of the South. Imagine how pleased I was to hear Speaker of the House John Boehner singing Zip-a-dee-doo-dah as he addressed the nation to resign from his post! Is Boehner African-American? Has he played Uncle Remus in a theatrical production? I think he rocks! Does this have anything to do with his meeting the Pope?
Willy Nilly, Willamina, Oregon

Dear Willy Nilly,
Pope Francis must have influenced the Speaker in his resignation since Boehner kept weeping and confessing his many sins during their meeting. To my knowledge, he has never played Uncle Remus, although he and Mitch McConnell are said to have modeled their congressional careers after Brer Bear and Brer Fox. Song of the South paints a very jolly picture of the lives of Southern Blacks throughout the hundred or so happy years leading up to the early 1950s, and it's puzzling that Zip-a-dee-doo-dah never became as popular as, say, We Shall Overcome, during the Civil Rights movement. It's so catchy, and "Brer Boehner" sings it with panache.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Hi, Guy,

Have you ever written a humorous essay about dental insurance? I ask because about 6000 Americans turn 65 every day of the year. Of those who retire only 33% continue to receive health benefits from their employer, and 75% of those do not get dental insurance.
Not funny, or what's the deal? Dental insurance is a rip-off, and it isn't really insurance at all. It's dollar trading.
Here's the deal. Most dental plans are capped at amounts slightly in excess of their annual premiums. For me the premium would amount to about $1500 for which I'd get a couple of cleanings. It would also cover partial payment toward restorative care and limited lifetime orthodontics, which I don't need.
Without a catastrophic benefit? Hel-lo-o, smash mouth. Catastrophic benefits are a key element of "true (real) insurance" plans.
Why pay a $1500 annual premium to get $350 worth of maintenance service when you can just pay cash for cleaning and spend the balance on green fees and beer with your golf buddies and get an earlier tee time than you know who?
Most health insurance plans cover serious accidental (catastrophic) injury to your natural teeth and also many of the more serious conditions that threaten healthy teeth and vision. What health insurance plans do not cover is routine dental maintenance services and hardware (rubber dams, veneer, whitening, mouth shellac, etc.).
I say you're than man who knows how to write about scandalous stuff and make it seem humorous. Bonus question: Candidate Donny Bob Trump is busting Carly Fiorina's chops about her face being "unelectable." What do you think, and is it covered by dental insurance?
Joe from East of Tomales (a man of simple requirements)

Dear Joe of East Tomales,

First of all, you don't really need teeth to eat tamales. Also, I don't personally find anything amusing about teeth, unless you have the wind-up kind for dentures. That always makes me titter. In my current dental plan, actually fixing teeth is considered "cosmetic" (like hair implants or a nose job). It's up to me as an independent American if I want to look good, and I accept that. My dentist gave me a coupon for a discount on a blender, so when I come home with that burger and fries I just drop them into the Osterizer and drink them. Voila! (I think the food processor is actually my catastrophic plan). I have absolute faith in the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies always looking out for us, and I'm sure that they'd like to get those early tee times as much as we would. Corporations are people, too, and they enjoy a beer and a laugh as much as the next guy.
And speaking of laughs and wags, Donald Trump's dry sense of humor, and his comment about Fiorina's looks, was just an indication of how perfect he would be communicating with other heads of state. Let's face it, Trump is the voice of the American right wing, and those who don't get his subtle, droll message are just dumb and ugly and stupid.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear International Guy,
I'm confused because I heard from a friend in Des Moines that Donald Trump has won the Iowa Caucus, but I thought it hadn't happened yet. Am I right, or is he right?
Phil from Philomath, Oregon

Dear Phil,
I'd like to clear the air about this rumor: Trump won the Iowa Flatus (not Caucus) at the state fair this summer, an annual contest that follows pie-eating and swine judging. He blasted all competition in every category (auditory, olfactory, etc.), though many of his competitors are crying foul. Former winner Tommy "Toots" Thompson complained that nobody (judges, media, public) can tell the difference between Trump's speech and flatulence, so the competitors "didn't stand the chance of a fart in a tornado." Trump trumpeted back: "I'm probably a better person than you are."
I'd say you can't argue with success,can you?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"This Book is Selling Like Hotcakes!"
Jalal ad Din Rumi

Ask An International Guy of Mystery

Dear International Guy,
I've been a fan of yours for some time, and I know I'm not alone in appreciating your work, but I'm confused by some of the reviews I've seen posted online. Your three novels have received glowing responses from well-known writers, as I'm sure they must deserve, but it seems to me that the books were published after these reviewers had died. At the risk of sounding skeptical, can you explain to me how your books got such accolades from Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, and Mahatma Gandhi?
Nan from Neskowin, Oregon

Dear Nan,
In one word: posthumously.
It's fairly common in publishing.
You have a great day,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear International Guy,
In preparation for a vacation in Las Vegas I just read Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I didn't find this book very uplifting, nor did it reveal any good gambling secrets. Do you know what this book is about or, especially, any good tips for gambling? Didion made Vegas sound negative. I don't go with negative, I go with positive.
J. "Jack" Cass, Jacksonville, Oregon

Dear Jack Cass,
Play it as it Lays is a chilling novel about the barren and immoral environments of both Las Vegas and Hollywood back in the 60s. Since then Las Vegas has become one of the happiest places on earth, with rides and pyramids and castles, so don't let old sourpuss Joan keep you from wishing upon a star or your favorite combination of numbers. Besides, from Didion's book I think it's only negative for women, not men. When I was there I saw huge lines of men getting their paychecks at the Paychecks Only windows, so how negative is that?
I just returned from the PSWA convention at the Orleans Hotel in Vegas (if you haven't heard about this conference, I just don't know, I may have to unfriend you on Facebook), and I did hit upon a winning system after a great deal of experimentation. My initial mistake was to continue throwing money into a slot machine that had a sign above it saying, "Baldo Won $5,600!" After a few hours I felt cheated, even wondering if Baldo is a real name. Then I found a machine that was tucked away from the main casino floor, near the elevators to the guest rooms, and I WON EVERY TIME! Sometimes I hit and got a Snickers, sometimes a bag of Bugles, and once a roll of Lifesavers! I felt like Minnesota Fats, especially since I gained several pounds.
Viva Las Vegas, Jack,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear Guy,
Can you explain to me what deja vu means? My uncle says it all the time. He spent years working a tungsten mine all by himself in Nevada, eating nothing but ramen noodles and cans of Dinty Moore beef stew while reading Robert Crais mystery novels. Does it have something to do with either of these things? He spent years all by himself working at a tungsten mine in Nevada where he ate ramen noodles with Dinty Moore beef stew and read Robert Crais novels. What does it mean?
Tyrone Chu Laces, Tigard, Oregon

Dear Tyrone,
Deja means leave it in Spanish, and I think vu might be some form of the word you or yours, so my guess is that deja vu means something like leave your stuff there. Or maybe leave it alone. I have to say that there's something about your uncle's story that intrigues me. When I read it I had this eerie feeling of having heard the whole thing before. Did I dream it? It seems like I might have overheard somebody at a bar in Nevada talking about a tungsten mine and noodles and stew and Robert Crais mystery novels. I have this feeling that it means something, but I can't put my finger on it. Oh, well, c'est la vie,

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Interview with Performance Poet Warm Pie
The International Guy of Mystery managed to speak with Warm Pie during the Sydney Slamapalooza, which turned out to be Pie's third poetry slam victory in two weeks. The interview was cut short when adoring fans demolished part of the stage while demanding an encore from Pie.

IGM: Do you prefer being called Warm or Pie?
WP: Where is my cat?
IGM: I don't know. Let me ask you about your first collection of poems, which has sold over 500,000 copies in seven languages. The title poem, "I Peed," has been referred to as the most complete poem in the 21st Century by Yoko Ono. Would you mind performing it for us?
WP: I just did.
IGM: I mean, with the words and all.
WP: OK. "Sunlight through the blinds/ Cat whiskers. The world/ Smelled like milk./ Mama picked me up./ I peed."
IGM (weeping): Thank you! Thank you!
WP: Where is my cat?
IGM: I don't know. Who or what are your influences?
WP: Of course Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams, but I've always loved the Dadaists. Do you know where my cat went?
IGM: No, but I'm being told that you need to return to the stage, or what's left of it. Thank you, Warm! Thank you, Pie!
WP: I'm hungry.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery
Dear Guy,
I was wondering if you could tell me about a type of book, or genre I guess, called Steampunk. I was riding the Greyhound home to Baker City from a Star Trek convention in Vegas, dressed as Brunt (who as you know is a liquidator with Ferengi Commerce and doesn't like idle talk) when this guy boards in Greeley (how we ended up going through Northern Colorado still baffles me) and tells me I would love reading Steampunk. I told him I was only interested in supplanting Grand Negus Zek, which made him clam up. So, is there such a type of literature called Steampunk?
Baffled in Baker, Oregon

Dear Baffled,
Yes, I have heard that there is a literary sub-genre called Steampunk, and there are two logical descriptions. One would be mystery novels where annoying little punks, like Macaulay Culkin, get people very angry or steamed up (think Home Alone). The other would be about the punk subculture, people with Mohawks and dog chains, having lots of steamy sex (think Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols, but don't think about the sex acts because they would likely involve bondage and sadism). I had a similar encounter with a stranger on a train who pulled my leg, trying to convince me that Steampunk was a type of science fiction based on 19th Century technology. I almost told him that, since there were no punks nor much sex in the 19th Century, and since (hello!) science fiction is about the future, not the past, his story made no sense, but he was dressed like a space alien with pointed ears, and I didn't want to rile him. I did titter a bit behind my train schedule, though.
International Guy

Friday, May 15, 2015

Interview with Marilyn Meredith

The International Guy of Mystery interviewed Marilyn Meredith after he had failed to find gold in a stream near her home in the Sierra Nevada foothills (the 150-year-old map he'd bought from a genuine gold prospector had the word Walmart written on its back--ancestor of the modern businessman?) Marilyn is a prolific author! She's published more than 35 mystery novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest River Spirits from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Violent Departures, from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

IGM:     If you had to give a quick, one-sentence description of your novel (or series) to a Hollywood mogul, what would you say?

MM: Two violent departures and a haunted house baffle members of the Rocky Bluff P.D.

IGM:   What inspired you to write this series (personal experience, books you love, real people and events, etc.)?

MM: First, yes, I did enjoy reading police procedurals, but never thought about writing one until my son-in-law became a police officer. My daughter didn’t like to hear his stories, so he told them to me. He took me on my first police ride-along. We also lived in a neighborhood with many law enforcement families, so I observed a lot about how what was going on with the job affected the family, and what happened at home affected the job. A theme that flows through all the books in the series. Yes, I do use some real events, but they are greatly fictionalized.

IGM:     What gives you the most joy as a writer?

MM: There’s nothing better than having a reader tell me how much they liked a book I wrote. I do have some fans who are really great about sharing what they enjoyed most about a book.

IGM:     What is the hardest thing about writing?

     MM: Writing is the best and most satisfying part of the whole process—but it
     doesn’t stop here. Next comes the rewriting and the editing, and I enjoy            
     both. But what takes the most time and effort is promoting the book and     
     I’m usually doing that while writing a book in my other series.

IGM:    How did you come up with the titles?

MM: Some titles are easy and come about from something that jumps right out of the plot. The title, Murder in the Worst Degree, was given to me before I ever wrote the book. Towards the end, I was scrambling to figure out how to tie the tile in with what I’d written. A few times I’ve asked my critique group (who hear all my books chapter by chapter) for suggestions.

IGM:    Tell a little about your process. Do you know how your novels should end before you start?  

MM: The short answer to the question is “No.” I often begin thinking I know—but more times than not, I even change who I think the murderer is as I’m writing.

As to the process, because I write series—I have ongoing situations with characters that must progress—and actually, that is helpful because it gives me minor plot threads to weave into the main story. Next, I need to come up with a murder: how it happened, motives for more than one person, who those suspects are, and other crimes to occupy the police department.

IGM:     Pretend you are fielding a baseball team with your favorite writers. List them by position.

MM: The only baseball I ever watch is when kids are playing so really don’t have a good answer for this one. I have many favorite authors—really too many to list. I enjoy reading new writers’ books too.

IGM:   Pretend your book is being made into a movie. What actors would play the lead characters? (Note: if your book is being optioned for a movie, you may wish to send several thousand dollars to the International Guy of Mystery Foundation as a tax write-off).

MM: I’ve been asked this question before, and because I already see my characters as individuals, I have no idea who would play the leads in a movie.  I know some authors, especially those who write romance, who pick out specific actors and base their characters on them. I’ve never done that. What I have done is pick particular characteristics and appearance of people I’ve met and give them to the people in my books.  Fortunately no one has ever recognized him or herself.

Here's a blurb for Violent Departures:

College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Interview with Filmmaker Progress Hornsby

The International Guy of Mystery met internationally famous independent filmmaker Progress Hornsby on a floating birthday party for Danny DeVito aboard the cruise ship Monkey Business on the San Francisco Bay (Note: Mr. DeVito was not on board). The International Guy found the enigmatic Hornsby on deck as The Monkey Business crossed under the Bay Bridge.

IGM: Progress, I guess the first question is about inspiration: where do your ideas come from?
PH: Wait. Will you say that again? I'd like to shoot you doing that.
IGM: What? Oh, um, I guess the first question is about inspiration...
PH: No, do it like before, you were sort of picking your nose.
IGM: I was not.
PH: Wow, that's crazy! Nice! You did it again. Keep talking.
IGM: Where do your ideas come from?
PH: People are crazy beautiful, I love to watch them.
IGM: What makes a good movie?
PH: It has to have legs and be crazy beautiful.
IGM: What do you mean by legs?
PH: Oh, do that again, look down at your shoes, man. Your bald spot is great.
IGM: I don't have a bald spot.
PH: Sweet! Hey,it's been lovely, but I need to go. Ciao, Baby.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Interview with Book Critic Mimi van Gogh

The International Guy of Mystery spoke with world famous book critic Mimi van Gogh in the backseat of her parents' car as she was rushing from the Frankfurt Book Fair to catch a flight to Paris for a gala library opening.

IGM: What an honor to finally meet you, Ms. van Gogh!
MvG: It is nothing.
IGM: Is Mimi van Gogh your real name, or is that a nom de plume?
MvG: Go fish.
IGM: What are you currently reviewing?
MvG: The London Times has requested a review of this "Alphabet Book" by an obscure author I will not bother to mention. I find it terribly predictable.
IGM: How so?
MvG: Who does not know that A is for apple?
IGM: Oh, yes. Do you dislike most books that you review?
MvG: Most American books for children are unfortunately childish.
IGM: Are there authors or books that you particularly enjoy?
MvG: I went through a Marcel Proust phase, but now I prefer something with more fictive elan, more muscular diction, and less self-conscious ontological ennui.
IGM: I...I feel the same way. Do you see any trends in publishing?
MvG: There is only one trend, and that is to make money. I must say adieu now.
IGM: What does that mean?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Interview with Lesley Diehl

The International Guy of Mystery interviewed Lesley Diehl while lying on a psychologist's couch behind a haystack in a cattle field near a gator-infested swamp in Florida. Diehl is a former professor of psychology and was able to quickly diagnose the Guy with various psychological disorders as she answered his questions.
Diehl is also a prolific writer and has published numerous short stories as well as two cozy mystery novel series, always with a strong dose of humor, and always featuring sassy country gals.

IGM: If you had to give a quick, one-sentence description of your novel (or series) to a Hollywood mogul, what would you say? 
LD: I never say anything in one sentence.  I am a former academic and therefore very long winded. This is the story of a Connecticut fashionista who moves to rural Florida to set up a high end consignment shop with her best friend.  She is a sassy, in-your-face kind of gal and she's snoopy with few social graces.  That means she's always getting into trouble.  She seems to have a knack for stumbling onto dead bodies.  In some cases, she’s implicated in the murder.  In others, she gets involved in solving the crime because that's just what she does.  She is aided in her amateur sleuthing by her business partner and best friend as well as a cadre of friends including a mob boss, a hunky private eye, her ex-husband, a Miccosukee Indian and his grandfather and, sometimes her good friend, a detective with the local police. 
A high end consignment shop in the swamps of Florida, you say?  Sure, women everywhere like to dress well even when they're wrestling an alligator or herding cattle.
Yep, it would be a comedy.

I know I'm not playing fair so here's one sentence: Connecticut fashionista comes to rural Florida to open a consignment shop, but finds more than second hand merchandise when she finds a body on her dressing room floor.  Since this is a series, she stumbles onto bodies everywhere, on an airboat, in the swamp, in a mud bog, and on and on.

IGM: Whew! Remind me not to ask you for a long answer! OK: What inspired you to write this series (personal experience, books you love, real people and events, etc.)?
LD: This isn't the first series I've written, but it is the one closest to my heart.  My paternal grandmother was the queen of recycling.  She never bought new and she passed this proclivity for bargains onto me.  Or maybe it's just genetic.  I've furnished my cottage in upstate New York with finds from garage sales, auctions and consignment shops.  I only buy new if it's on sale.  I am both environmentally responsible with my recycling, repurposing, and reusing, and I am cheap.  So, of course, my protagonist, Eve must own a consignment shop.

IGM: What gives you the most joy as a writer?
LD: I write humorous mysteries for the most part and my joy is in being able to entertain myself as I write and hope that others will get a good laugh out of reading what my strange brain creates.  If I don't laugh at what I'm writing, then it doesn't belong on the page.

IGM: What is the hardest thing about writing?
LD: I hate doing the rewrites.

IGM: How did you come up with the titles?
LD: My titles for the Eve Appel mystery series are very straight forward, i.e., A Secondhand Murder, Dead in the Water, A Sporting Murder, pretty revealing of what's inside the book, but I love to think up crazy titles such as in my Big Lake Murder mystery series, Dumpster Dying, Grilled, Chilled, and Killed.  I love those!

IGM: Tell a little about your process. Do you know how your novels should end before you start?
LD: I used to write by the seat of my pants and never really knew what might happen.  Now I write to my publisher's schedule and to meet it, I must outline.  Usually I deviate wildly from the outline, but it's there to give me psychological comfort.

IGM: Pretend you are fielding a baseball team with your favorite writers. List them by position.
LD:  I have to tell you that I do really hate baseball (I do not know what is wrong with me), but it's a fact that I have never sat through an entire game.  But then I dislike most organized sports, so I don't engage in them and I don't watch them (except for golf which I sometimes play very badly and I do watch it on TV, so there!).  The only sport I'm mildly interested in is quidditch (from Harry Potter-I like the idea of flying around on brooms), but I know little about it.  When I looked it up on the internet, I found it was very complicated, so I tossed out my original idea that I would field quidditch players.  I am forced, because of my dislike of team sports, to ignore your question.  As you can see, I not only dislike team play, but I am not a team player.  I don't follow the rules, although I did color inside the lines when a kid.

IGM: Physician, heal thyself! How could you not like baseball? OK, last question: Pretend your book is being made into a movie. What actors would play the lead characters? (Note: if your book is being optioned for a movie, you may wish to send several thousand dollars to the International Guy of Mystery Foundation as a tax write-off).
LD: My protagonist, Eve Appel is tall, thin and blonde.  I think Angelina Jolie with a wig would be perfect.  Madeleine, her business partner and friend could only be played by that tiny, blonde gal who does Bernadette in The Big Bang Theory.  Eve's grandmother is a round, white-haired woman fashioned after the look of Paula Dean.  Do you think she might leave the kitchen to play Grandy, Eve's Grandmother?  As for the men in the book, I'm not good with thinking of male actors, so I think we should audition some unknowns.  I sometimes think when I'm walking down the street or in a restaurant that there are people with the right look.  Who knows?  They might have talent.  Besides it would be fun to audition handsome, exciting and smart men, well, with the exception of Eve's ex-husband who is good looking, but not so smart.

Please visit Lesley's website and order her books by following the link below:

Preorder link:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear Guy,
For years I have been trying to remember the name of a song. Its lyrics run through my head every day like a stream of oily effluent rushing down a storm drain:
Oh, them golden slippers!
Oh, them golden slippers!
Golden, golden, golden slippers,
Golden, golden slippers!
Do you have any idea what the name of this song is and who wrote it?

Perplexed in Pendleton, Oregon

Dear Perplexed,
I had to coerce some of my sources in the intelligence community to help me track this down. There are three possibilities, which I'll share with you:
One is "Pair Two-Thousand-Twenty-Three", written by Imelda Marcos and sung by her husband, Ferdinand, with the accompaniment of the Philippine National Choir.
Another is "I Wish I Was a Girl" by J. Edgar Hoover, the founder of the FBI.
Lastly, "Them Golden Slippers" by The Ozark Snake Charmers, with special guest, Billy Graham.
I hope one of these rings a bell for you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Interview with Holli Castillo
The International Guy of Mystery found Holli Castillo on a balcony at the Maison Bourbon in the French Quarter, where she was doing clandestine surveillance for a law firm while dictating notes into her phone for a future mystery novel and film treatment. She answered his questions by way of paper airplanes flown between the balcony and the sidewalk bench where the Guy (in disguise) was sitting and eating deep-fried popcorn shrimp slathered in Cajun hot sauce.

IGM: If you had to give a quick, one-sentence description of your novel or series to a Hollywood mogul, what would you say? 
HC: Here's my pitch for Chocolate City Justice – Navigating the flood of Hurricane Katrina with an NOPD detective and two cats, prosecutor Ryan Murphy finds herself fleeing gang members, rogue police officers, and the wrath of the storm, all the while gathering clues to solve the mystery of who is paying the Ninth Ward Warriors to terrorize the city.

IGM: What inspired you to write your series (personal experience, books you love, real people and events, etc.)?
HC: My series was inspired by my personal experience as a New Orleans prosecutor.

IGM: Yikes! That sounds scary! Next question: What gives you the most joy as a writer?
HC: When readers e-mail me and ask when the next novel is coming out because they can’t wait to find out what happens to my protag, Ryan. It doesn’t get any better than when my characters are as real to my readers as they are to me.

IGM: What is the hardest thing about writing?
HC: Finding time to write is the most difficult part of writing. I have a “job-job” that I do from home, two teenage daughters, a husband, three dogs, and two deaf cats, all of which compete for my attention. I also write screenplays and t.v. pilots and I just started producing my own films, so it’s hard to juggle everything that needs to get done.

IGM: I think one of your deaf cats just jumped on my lap. How do you come up with the titles for your books?
HC: My husband and my kids name all my work. I’m terrible with titles and actually don’t enjoy the naming process. Except for my characters. I love naming characters.

IGM: Tell a little about your process. Do you know how it should end before you start?
HC: I always know how the story is going to end, but then I usually try to add a twist I hadn’t planned.  I do a scene by scene outline ahead of time, although the scenes get rewritten and moved around constantly. If I didn’t outline, I wouldn’t know how to stop adding scenes into the novel.

IGM: Pretend you are fielding a baseball team with your favorite writers. List them by position.
HC: We are a football city (if you didn’t guess my favorite football team is the New Orleans Saints you don’t know anything at all about me or the city of New Orleans.) 
IGM: I thought the New Orleans Saints was a glee club. OK, go on:
HC: I suggest you remain in disguise. 
IGM: Yikes!
HC: I can’t picture any of my favorite writers playing football, so I’m going to use my next favorite sport, women’s gymnastics.  Ernest Hemingway would do the vault, because he seems like he would run fast because he was a sportsman.  John Kennedy Toole would do the floor, but he would probably fall a lot and not be very good.  Julie Plec (who writes and produces Vampire Diaries and the Originals) would do the balance beam because she looks kind of short and short women have a lower center of gravity and do better on beam.  She also does a fantastic job of balancing the two shows she writes.  John Sandford would do the bars, because if he is like his character Lucas Davenport, he is fearless and aggressive, two traits necessary to excel at the bars.

IGM: I can't stop seeing Hemingway in women's gymnastic tights doing the splits...OK, last question: Pretend your book is being made into a movie. What actors would play the lead characters? (Note: if your book is being optioned for a movie, you may wish to send several thousand dollars to the International Guy of Mystery Foundation as a tax write-off).
HC: Casting my protag Ryan is difficult because she is short, but Anna Kendrick is about the right height and could do a lot with the role. If I wasn’t casting by height, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Emily Blunt, or Emma Watson.
Ian Somerhalder, Damon from The Vampire Diaries, would definitely get the role of Shep, my lead male. I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote the character, but the first time I saw Ian Somerhalder on TVD, I immediately thought that is Shep, exactly as I described him.
Jason Momoa would get the role of the second lead male and third member of the little love triangle, undercover detective Monte Carlson.

I would pick some of the Wahlberg boys to play Ryan’s brothers, actor Ryan Reynolds for the villain in Gumbo Justice and Jared Leto for the villain in Jambalaya Justice.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

                  Dear International Guy of Mystery,
One of the great international mysteries in our time has to do with finding the secret messages buried within the songs of the Beatles. I have spent something like fifty years trying to determine whether or not Paul is dead, and I still don’t know the answer. We’re told that the walrus was Paul, which I think means that he secretly died and was replaced by a look-alike. Also, what does the number nine really mean? Or Honey Pie? I’d like to know if you have some light to shed on this subject, though I must warn you that I will probably disagree with you, since I tend to disagree with everybody on this subject.
Roy “Ringo” Randolph, Redmond, Oregon

Dear Roy Ringo,
I agree that the Beatles hid some intriguing messages in their lyrics for people to get obsessed with until they lose all friendship with the real world, but I’m sorry to hear that you have spent so much time on the subject of Paul’s death since he keeps performing in public and appears to be the only one who didn’t die. You will probably disagree, but it’s clear to me that you’re a complete idiot.
What’s hidden in the early lyrics and now fairly obvious to me is the homo-erotic subtext. Why did they care so much about wearing tights? When they sing “Hold Me Tights” in their quaint Liverpudlian style, one has to wonder (“You don’t know what it means to hold me tights”).  Indeed: What does it mean to hold their tights? They come right out and blurt it out in an early song celebrating the very odor of a man’s body, (“I Want a B.O. Lover, Baby, I Want a B.O. Man”), but few critics or fans have noticed, and since my sources say that most British artists are gay, nobody cares.
I think you should get outside of Redmond more often.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear International Guy of Mystery,
I have been reading British mystery authors for most of my life and consider myself something of an Anglophile. In fact I usually speak to strangers in a British accent and fancy myself expert in this genre, so I was gobsmacked when I heard that Elizabeth George is an American! The bloody twit who told me this was none other than my cheeky husband, and we had quite row. Is the blackguard right, or am I right that she has to be a Brit?
Brassed-Off in Benton County, Oregon

Dear Brassed,
I was astonished to find out that your husband is actually right! How could an American woman write with a British accent? Inspector Lynley is more English than Austin Powers! It doesn't make sense to me; in fact, I think there may be something rotten in Denmark. When American writers and film makers have English characters in their stories, there's always something wrong with them: they're either evil geniuses, or they're smart but homely or cowardly. Not so with our Elizabeth George!
Here's my theory: she has an evil twin or a madwoman friend who was raised in London. The twin is locked in a castle tower somewhere, like they often do in England, and she sends Elizabeth George the stories, maybe in exchange for something American that she can't get in the British insane asylum (like good movies or tacos).
Thank you for alerting me to this international ruse!
International Guy of Mystery

Friday, March 20, 2015

Interview With Robert Weibezahl
The International Guy of Mystery found Robert Weibezahl slouched under the Collected William B. Yeats in a corner booth in a hidden Irish pub somewhere along a fault line in Southern California. Robert has worked in the publishing and film businesses in New York and LA. Many of his book reviews have been published in major periodicals, and a nonfiction book (A Taste of Murder, co-authored with Jo Grossman) was published by Dell in 1999. He is also a singer and actor and co-founder of the theater troupe Panic! Productions.

IGM:     If you had to give a quick, one-sentence description of your novel (or series) to a Hollywood mogul, what would you say?

RW: A cynical (but fundamentally endearing—honest!) screenwriter investigates death threats against an aging silent screen star while navigating through the turbulent, shark-filled waters of a Hollywood career.

IGM:     What inspired you to write it (personal experience, books you love, real people and events, etc.)?

RW: This is the second book in a series (the first is The Wicked and the Dead), which loosely draws on my own erstwhile experiences working in the movie business (though not as a screenwriter). The main character, Billy Winnetka, was born like Athena from the head of Zeus while I was driving the freeway in L.A. one night and passed the Winnetka Boulevard exit. His name flashed into my mind and by the time I had driven the remaining half-hour to my home I had sketched out the plot of the first book in my head.

IGM:    What gives you the most joy as a writer?

RW: When a complete stranger (as opposed to a supportive friend) tells me that he or she has read something I’ve written and liked it.

IGM:     What is the hardest thing about writing?

RW: I am great at getting the spark of an idea and starting a book or story, but I can have a lot of trouble finishing it. I have more than one stillborn manuscript on my computer as we speak. Some have been there for years.

IGM:     How did you come up with the title(s)?

RW: This book actually started with a working title, then had been given a different title by the time I submitted it to Oak Tree Press. Then, a few months before publication my publisher contacted me to say that another book with that title had just come out from another publisher. Since that competing book was also in the crime genre, we thought it best to change mine and avoid confusion. I thought long and hard and came up with The Dead Don’t Forget because it contains the phrase “the dead” like the title of the first book in the series, and it also does reflect one important aspect of the plot.

IGM:     Tell a little about your process. Did you know how it should end before you started?

RW: Well, expanding on what I said in my answer to question four, I have a lot of trouble getting to the end—although I do often have an inkling of the “solution” or final moments of the book, getting there can be a rough journey. I am not a writer who outlines, I usually let a story or book take me where it wants to go—within reason of course. Sometimes it wants to go places I don’t understand…which may account for those unfinished manuscripts.

IGM:     Pretend you are fielding a baseball team with your favorite writers. List them by position.

RW: I love baseball, but I’m not sure if most of my favorite writers would contribute much to a team (overall, they do not seem a physically hardy bunch—in fact, most of them are dead!) A lot of them are British, too, and might prefer cricket or, at the very least, soccer (rugby would be unimaginable with my literary crew)! How about if I recruit five Americans and five Brits and we pit them against each other on a basketball court? It would be an amusing, if not particularly athletic, competition.

The Stars and Stripes:
Mark Twain
John Steinbeck
Henry James
Joan Didion
F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Union Jacks:
Graham Greene
Muriel Spark
Evelyn Waugh
E.M. Forster
Iain Pears

IGM:   (Great teams! I hear that Didion is a monster under the boards). OK, Pretend your book is being made into a movie. What actors would play the lead characters? (Note: if your book is being optioned for a movie, you may wish to send several thousand dollars to the International Guy of Mystery Foundation as a tax write-off).

RW: This became a fun parlor game for my wife, daughter, and me. We went well beyond the two leads!

Billy Winnetka, crime-solving screenwriter: Bradley Cooper
Kate Hennessey, Billy’s attorney love interest: Elisabeth Moss
Gwendolyn Barlow, the aging silent screen star: Judi Dench or Maggie Smith (I would be giddy with delight over either choice)
Grace Everett, Billy’s eccentric heiress friend, Alison Janney
Tony Renkowski (who is central to the first book), Josh Hutcherson
Al Borges, Billy’s policeman ally, Michael Pena

Here's some more information about Robert:

Robert Weibezahl is the author of two crime novels featuring screenwriter Billy Winnetka—The Wicked and the Dead and The Dead Don’t Forget—as well as co-author of the Agatha and Macavity Award-nominated literary cookbooks/anthologies, A Taste of Murder and A Second Helping of Murder. Having worked in the publishing and film businesses for many years, he has a broad range of credits. He has been a monthly columnist for BookPage for more than a dozen years, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Reader, Ventura County Star, Mystery Readers Journal, Bikini, and Irish America, among others. Weibezahl was also a finalist for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2010 Derringer Award for his short story, “Identity Theft,” which appears in two eBook story collections: Triple Twist and Deadly by the Dozen.

Weibezahl has recently embarked on a project to read the complete works of Graham Greene. You can follow his progress at

More at and

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Book is Now Available at:

or at select independent bookstores and on Amazon Books.
It's a good idea to buy it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery:
Special Writing Conference Advice!

Dear International Guy of Mystery,
I’m thinking of attending a writing conference, but I don’t know if anybody there would be smart enough to recognize the unique genius of my work. If I decide to go, how can I get the most out of it? Besides selling the novel, I was kind of hoping to have sex.
Hesitant from Hillsboro, Oregon

Dear Hesitant,
If your aim is to stand out as a genius, which is something that I have done successfully at various conferences, I’m going to let you in some secrets. The most important word bears repeating: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
About two weeks before the event:

1.       Study the website carefully and learn as much as you can about the agents or editors you plan to see. Impress them by saying you know exactly where they live and what their children’s names and ages are and where they go to school.
2.       Stop bathing: A literary genius rarely bathes, and agents know this from experience. Don’t shower, brush your teeth, or change your clothes for at least two weeks. Wear something slovenly and intentionally out of fashion, which says that you are beyond mere fashion.
3.       Carry a hip flask of Southern Comfort and stay tipsy during the conference. Raise your voice whenever an amusing thought occurs to you. Interrupt speakers with disdainful remarks that exhibit your intellectual superiority.
4.       Memorize your pitch, which could be as simple as: This is a book that can make your career, and if you screw up and don’t represent it, you will regret it for the rest of your life.

Item two above may limit your auxiliary goal of having sex with a stranger, but you might encounter a kindred spirit. I suspect that you will easily find each other in the crowd!
  Bon chance, mon ami!

International Guy of Mystery

Friday, March 6, 2015

Interview with Janet Greger

As a professor in biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Janet Greger honed her story-telling skills as she lectured to bleary-eyed students at 8:30 in the morning. She says that her students remembered chemical reactions better when the instructor attached stories to the processes. 

Now she has two great passions—her Japanese Chin dog, Bug, and travel. She has included both in her novels: Coming FluMurder: A New Way to Lose WeightIgnore the Pain, and Malignancy. You can learn more about her at her website: and blog (JL Greger’s Bugs): She will also answer question directed to: The International Guy of Mystery interviewed her through a surgical mask in a secret laboratory.

IGM:     If you had to give a quick, one-sentence description of your novel to a Hollywood mogul, what would you say?

JG: Feel the tension as a woman scientist tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord in New Mexico and accepts a risky assignment for the U.S. State Department in Cuba in Malignancy.

IGM:   What inspired you to write it?

JG: As a professor in biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I consulted on scientific and educational issues in several developing countries—the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon. I enjoyed these trips, but they were not vacations. They were hard work and challenging. On each assignment, I stumbled onto tidbits of information, which might have been useful to individuals in the State Department. I never divulged or acted on the secrets I learned, but I thought what if? 

In Ignore the Pain, the prequel to Malignancy, my heroine, Sara Almquist, travels to Bolivia, for USAID to advise on public health problems. I’ve been to Bolivia and tried to paint a realistic picture of the poverty, malnutrition among children, and pollution from the silver mines. In the course of her work, Sara learns way too much about the coca trade. I don’t want to give away the plot, but she attracts the attention of U.S. State department officials.

In 2013, I visited Cuba. The tour guide claimed Cuban scientists had patented a drug for cancer. When I got home, I found researchers in Havana had patented a therapeutic cancer vaccine, which was supposed to rev up patients’ own immune systems to produce cells to slay certain lung cancer cells without injuring normal cells. This patent suggests two aspects of change in Cuba. At least several Cuban scientists are doing competitive science. The Cuban government recognized the importance of commercialization of their research. In June 2014, the president of AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) requested the U.S. government to sponsor scientific exchanges with Cuba. (Editorial “in the journal Science on June 6, 2014.)

I thought: Wow! Sara Almquist, the epidemiologist and heroine of Ignore the Pain, would be the perfect protagonist to set up exchanges between scientists in the U.S. and Cuba. Thus Malignancy was born.

IGM:    How did you come up with the title?

JG: I wanted a title for my novel, Malignancy, to suggest the importance of medical research to the plot. I also thought the drug trade, from which Sara if fleeing, is a type of societal malignancy.

IGM:    What gives you the most joy as a writer?

JG: I enjoy the story telling process and feel real satisfaction when I reread a section and know I’ve told a realistic and compelling incident.

IGM: What is the hardest thing about writing?

JG: Proofing the novel over and over again for typos and inconsistencies.

IGM: Tell a little about your process. Did you know how it should end before you started?

JG: Before I began to write, I created about five pages of points I wanted to include in Malignancy. Accordingly, I knew part, but not all, of the conclusions of the book. I didn’t know how the romantic part of the plot would be resolved.

IGM: Pretend you are fielding a baseball team with your favorite writers. List them by position.

Pitcher: Wallace Stegner
Outfielders with best batting averages: J. K. Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, Ken Follett
Catcher: Thomas Mann
Basemen: Michael Crichton, John Grisham. Fannie Flagg
Shortstop: Erich Maria Remarque

IGM: That is a great lineup! I can see Stegner shaking off Mann's pessimistic signals. OK:   Pretend your book is being made into a movie. What actors would play the lead characters? 

JG: Marcia Gay Hardin would be the ideal Sara Almquist—tough, smart, and attractive but not gorgeous. I patterned Xave Zack, Sara’s love interest, to be like the late Denis Farina.

IGM: Tell me more about Malignancy and Ignore the Pain.

JG: In Malignancy, men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. Albuquerque police suspect a drug czar, who Sara has tangled with several times, will order more hits on Sara. Thus when colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town and to see the mysterious Xave Zack. Maybe, she should question their motives.

In Ignore the Pain, Sara Almquist couldn’t say no when invited to be the epidemiologist on a public health mission to assess children’s health in Bolivia. Soon someone from her past is chasing her through the Witches’ Market and churches of La Paz. Unfortunately, she can’t decide which of her new colleagues, especially the shady Xave Zack, to trust as she learns more about the coca trade than she ever wanted to know.

Malignancy and Ignore the Pain are available (paperback and Kindle formats) at Amazon and and at Oak Tree Press: