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:


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ask an International Guy of Mystery

Dear International Guy of Mystery,
What can writers do to help fight terrorism? Besides write a great novel about the topic like John LeCarre, which seems way hard.
Lazy in Lorraine, Oregon

Dear Lazy in Lorraine,
What a coincidence: I’ve just been recruited by a London-based think tank for a top-secret communication mission that combats this very issue. It is highly confidential in nature. My task, ironically, is to try my best to write things to convince young people to join ISOL because, as they say, “It’s cool.” It was described to me as a form of reverse psychology. “You have your finger on the very pulse of banality,” I was told by their agent, whose name must remain anonymous. Chest swelling, I asked, “Niles, how can I help?”
Niles Crenshaw asked me to help him flood the Internet with cool-sounding posts, I guess as a way to entrap young people who might want to be a terrorist if they’re having trouble finding a job or different things to do. Here is a sample of a “rap” song I’ve begun for a music video:

 I’m walking across the desert in my blazer and fez,
My Donald Duck dispenser keeps feeding me Pez,
Yo, Yo, I think it’s real cool if you decide to join ISOL
But the camps are germy, Yo, so you better bring Lysol.

 I told Niles that I want images of Bedouins on camels, Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia somehow doing a kind of “break dance” on a flying carpet, Jafar yelling at Iago from the Disney movie Aladdin, and an army of Shriners in fezzes marching proudly across a football field at half-time. If that wouldn’t appeal to young people, I just don’t know.
Anyway, that is how I’m using the mighty pen to fight the sword of terror.

International Guy of Mystery