My editor, the scholar and gentleman, James R. Sodon has urged me to write a few words about the book. I thought I was done when I wrote the two-hundred plus pages that are in the book. I guess I am supposed to tell you the inside story about Uncle Joe Is Dead and about writing the book.
The title of the book was the message I received from one of my good friends when his great uncle Joe died. I remembered it because I thought Uncle Joe would go on forever. His uncle was a good and generous guy who some would have called a hoarder, but I would call a collector of over stocked merchandise. Since I too am a collector of stuff that others discard and from second-hand stores, I understood Uncle Joe’s interest. I like to think of us as pioneers in reuse technology or, if you prefer, dumpster divers work too.
I didn’t know Joe that well, but he could size you up and knew exactly what you might be interested in. He didn’t sell any of these treasures; he gifted them. He would say to me, “Do you want a pair of black dress shoes, you look like a ten.” I was a size ten. He also would also offer office supplies, yellow or white pads, file folders, pencils, pens, you get the idea.
I liked him. When I received the call that he had passed away, I was sad. That turned to curiosity and anger when my friend told me the circumstances of his death and how it was handled by the authorities. After hearing the circumstances of the death, I agreed that there did seem to be a rush to label it a natural death, but Uncle Joe was an older man and the attitude was…and old guys die.
The family could not get traction with the authorities and no further investigation was done. The attitude seemed to be he was old…so what.
There is no real similarity to how the fictional Uncle Joe passed away and the Uncle Joe that I knew, except that they were both older and died under what some would call suspicious circumstances. There is also no similarity between the two Joes’ families…that’s why it is called fiction.
The theme in my first book, Death by Lethal Affection, was inspired by the Innocence Project. The second book, Justice Delayed, was a continuation of the first book. It was about how in the end, all of us receive some type of justice. Uncle Joe Is Dead was inspired by the people who are ignored or forgotten in society, the people that Vice President and Senator Hubert H. Humphrey referred to when he said that a society can be judged by how it cares for its infirm, its old and its children. These are the forgotten people in our society today.
The Writing Stuff
The story for the first book was easy to write because it began as a short story that I wrote in my second tour of graduate school. But writing the novel was very hard in the beginning; it was “Take my hand, I’m a stranger in paradise,” but it wasn’t paradise, it was hell. Finally, I kind of figured it out. After about chapter ten it started to flow and got better. In fact, Jim Sodon and I have discussed re-editing Death by Lethal Affection to work on some of the stuff that falls into the category “If we knew then what we know now, we would have….”
Justice Delayed was much different. While I was writing the first book, I knew there had to be justice for Tim MacCarty. It was also clear how that would come about.
Uncle Joe is Dead was in some sense like starting over. It is the first stand-alone Nick Caldwell detective, mystery, crime novel, action novel; I have heard it described a lot of different ways. I don’t know how these stories should be described. For me the stories are about this guy who has a skill. He has suffered pain and loss in his life. He is a little bit of an outsider, yet he has a group of people that he works with that to him are family. He has sometimes a good, sometimes a not-so-good relationship with his father and siblings. He loves his dogs and he has sometimes a troubling passion about getting justice for people. Sometimes he is too passionate. He is evolving. Sometimes I think he is evolving in a positive way, other times I think he isn’t. So, I guess this makes him human.
Nick Caldwell does not embrace change very well at times. His investigative agency is doing well, largely because of his business partner, Bart Cheswick. He doesn’t have a relationship and doesn’t want one since the death of his children that led to his leaving the Chicago PD and to his divorce.
All the books tend to have short chapters because I think the type of stories I write need to move. The plot comes a lot from the characters. I’m a character guy. If I read a book and I like the character, I will read anything that author writes about that character. My favorites are Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden. I spend a lot of time thinking about the characters and the basic storyline, then I let the characters do their thing.
Well, I have been strongly urged to get up out my chair and do some promotion for the book by James R. Sodon and a few others. So, I may work up the energy to do that. I may be in a book store or outside a box store, like the Girl Scouts are when they are selling cookies, only I will be selling the book and I will not be wearing a uniform.
The fourth novel is being discussed now. I have a couple of stories but it looks like the working title of the next book is The Russian Girl. The story comes from a discussion with an international student. That student will also help with the technical aspects of the book as well. I will see when she wishes to be introduced to you.
So far, we’ve talked about story and where it might go. It will be a rough case for Nick. He will deal with the loss of one of his closest friends. He will be involved in an unrelated occurrence to his Russian investigation that could prove difficult for him professionally and to top things off, Blackie’s has been sold and closed. It will be turned into a deli and he is going to have to find new office space. Sam Spade would never have an office over a deli.
Well, there you go.
I usually thank people in the book for their contributions. I want to especially thank this time, James R. Sodon and Drew Foster for the great cover they came up with for Uncle Joe Is Dead.
I have also promised Jim that I would try to blog more. So, start checking in to see if I have.
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