Tell us a little about yourself. My first career was in law enforcement. I’ve been a patrolman, a Chief of Police and finished up my career as a Special Agent with the Department of the Air Force, Office of Special Investigations. I’m married to a wonderful lady named Noreen and have three daughters, Lesley, Ashley and Rachel. Currently living in Mascoutah Illinois, my second career is as an Oncology Nurse, caring for people whom – for the most part – are facing challenges far more desperate than anything I’ve faced to date.
What is your favorite non-writing pastime? I'm an eclectic soul. Music, guitar, photography, fishing, hunting, cooking…. I find it difficult to write because there is so little physical activity involved with it. I hate to slow down long enough to let the creative juices flow.
What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it? Selling! Writing creatively is hard work and editing is like self-amputation without anesthetic, but selling is a real butt-buster! Getting people to read your book, and then review it is a grinding process. For an unknown author, selling is probably the number one reason they don’t realize success. Word of mouth spreads slowly. The Independent Author market is flooded with books right now and it’s only going to get worse. I try to point out the value of my book, being 96,500 words, it’s a bargain for two reasons, first it’s a long read, and second, the reviews have been stellar.
If you had to sum it up (title of book) in 30 or less words, what would you say? First of all, “The Long Shooters” isn’t a western, it’s a murder mystery set in the gold mining region of Colorado in the eighteen-seventies. It’s also a pretty realistic romance – illicit, I might add.
What inspired the idea behind your book? My criminal investigative past was the primary inspiration. I’m a student of history and solving crimes in the old days wasn’t a very sophisticated process. I wanted a murder mystery that used the techniques of the day, but remained interesting authentic at the same time.
Do you have a favorite character in The Long Shooters? Who and why? Of course, I’d have to say my protagonist, Matt Shaw. Emotionally and intellectually, I based him on me. Of course I had to add looks and six-pac abs to keep him interesting. Still, his attitudes are my attitudes. His manner of speech is mine. The way he thinks and acts are the way I act and think. He was a simple character for me to sink my teeth into.
Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Matt Shaw is going to get through his biggest challenge. Well, while this is a murder mystery, it’s also a pretty decent romance – though not graphically so. Matt has taken a job finding the killer of a rancher’s young son. The rancher is so devastated by the many losses he has suffered personally, that he is no longer emotionally attentive to anything else in his life, including his wife, Sarah. Shaw, as he prefers to be addressed, must keep his mind on the search for a killer whose talents exceed Shaw’s, and he has to stay alive while doing it. Finding that he’s fallen in love with Sarah complicates this “manhunt” tremendously. Keep in mind; adultery was a killing offense back in those days.
What kind of research was involved for “The Long Shooters”? I like to point out that the setting for the book is authentic, though the names of the towns are fictitious. Every trail, campsite, view or scene described is a place I’ve hiked, camped or hunted. As for research, a life-long interest in history and a voracious appetite for reading about places and events provided me with all the material I needed to make the story historically authentic. Having spent the lion’s share of my adult life hunting criminals, I didn’t really need to conduct any research in that area. My inspiration for my protagonist was simply drawn from my experience.
What is your favorite scene in “The Long Shooters”? I’d have to say towards the end, when Shaw is finally confronting those responsible for the death of Stewart Roark. I tried to make everything about that scene perfect! It’s difficult portraying a battle scene in “real time”. The action must be slowed down, but doing so without giving the impression of slow motion is a hard thing to do. In reality, a gunfight involving multiple persons can be over in a matter of seconds, particularly when everyone knows how to shoot!
Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write? Yes to both! At the same time, I’m perfectly capable of creating my own distractions at the drop of a hat. I love waking up refreshed and ready to procrastinate.
What do you have in store next for your readers? One book, a more traditional historical fiction is done though the title is not yet set in stone. But, I have a more contemporary “action/adventure” novel in the works that draws heavily on my experiences in government service.
What type of hero do you like best? I like a man or woman who is already molded by their life’s experiences and their belief system. I don’t like characters that evolve say from a bad person to a good person because there are few if any true examples of it in real life. I can’t abide a character that is morally corrupt, suddenly “finding Jesus” so to speak. At the same time, being human and knowing a little about the mistakes I’ve made, I can recognize that having a strong moral compass doesn’t mean there won’t be magnetic influences that cause it to spin off course occasionally.
Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style? That’s easy. John D. MacDonald, Donald Hamilton and Robert B. Parker. MacDonald because he was so incredibly brilliant and intuitive about the human condition, particularly those who are motivated by evil intent. Parker, because he was able to take complex characters and make them seem simple and easily understood. His primary character, Spenser, was about as perfect as a protagonist could be. Finally, Donald Hamilton. He taught me more about violence than any other writer. Later in life, I realized through my own experiences, that his writing had to have been based on real life. I was certain this man had seen it close up and personal. He could dissect the act of killing into such simple and gritty terms, I knew he’d always be my #1 favorite author when it came to violent men and women engaged in their chosen work.
Excerpt from The Long Shooters
Samuel glanced out the window. Outside, the sun was almost gone behind the western peaks. With the coming of evening, the wind had died a bit, but the cooling of the cabin reminded him they needed fuel for the night’s fire. “I’m going for wood,” he said. Stuart spoke up. “I’ll get it, Pa. You just came in.” Stuart grabbed his boots and stuck his feet into the calf-high leather. Rising, he stamped them a couple of times and reached for his coat. Samuel saw the boy’s coat was still soaking wet from chopping ice. “Take mine, son.” The boy nodded and shrugged his father’s coat on. It was almost a perfect fit. Samuel knew a fierce pride in the boy he’d watched grow into a man. He smiled. “Better take the hat too, lad. One doesn’t work without the other.” Stuart grinned and stuffed his father’s hat on top of his head. Slipping on a pair of gloves, Stuart went out into the cold, quickly closing the door behind him. Samuel sipped his coffee and looked out the little kitchen window for one last glimpse of The Tree before dark. A wet, smacking sound came from outside a mere instant before a distant boom penetrated the thick walls of the cabin. “Pa!” Stuart cried weakly. Samuel dropped his cup and dashed for the door. Panic made him forget the rifle that hung on pegs above the doorjamb. He flung the door open and ran carelessly into the ranch-yard. The still form of his son was face down in the snow. Samuel ran to his boy. A large fan of sprayed blood spread out for a dozen feet on the snow around his son’s body and terror gripped Samuel like a hand on his throat. Grabbing the coat by the collar, Samuel turned and dragged the boy back up the porch stairs and through the cabin door where Sarah stood, the rifle in her hands. Once inside, Samuel turned Stuart over and opened the coat. Behind him, he was barely aware of Sarah closing the door and locking it. When he got the heavy leather garment open, Samuel was aghast. Only moments had passed, and already Stuart’s face was pale. The chest wound had already stopped bleeding — the strong young heart forever stilled. Samuel cocked his head in momentary confusion and then, from the depths of his body and soul, there came a hideous, bubbling cry like a roar from some pain-stricken animal. He screamed in protest until his lungs threatened to give out. When he could scream no longer, he gave in to great, racking sobs. Sarah watched in confusion and dread. Outside the cabin, a sudden gust of wind tore the rancher’s hat away from where it fell, rolling it along like a wheel until it bumped against the stable wall and lay upside down, slowly filling with the wind-whipped crystals of icy snow. At last, the purple sun slipped under the horizon and the fading light gave way to sudden darkness. Inside the cabin, Samuel cradled the bloodied body of his dead son. The rancher rocked back and forth on his knees, pleading forgiveness over and over, as he slowly approached the dark and frightening cliff’s edge of total madness — and, at long last, he let himself step off.