Publication is a few months off still (mark your calendars for early April), but I’m excited to show off a sneak peek of the cover of The Hunt, the fourth installment in the Andy Hayes private eye series from Swallow Press. It’s a nice way to kick off my trip to Indianapolis this coming weekend for the Magna Cum Murder mystery writers’conference and then the Buckeye Book Fair in Wooster, Ohio, the following Saturday, Nov. 5. Hope to see people at one or both!
“In his classic The Outermost House, American naturalist Henry Beston writes that animals ‘are not brethren, they are not underlings’ but beings ‘gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.’ They are, he writes, ‘other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.’ To many people, an octopus is not just another nation; it’s an alien from a distant and menacing galaxy.”
That’s Sy Montgomery, talking about the otherworldly nature of octopuses (and yes, that’s the correct plural form), in her 2015 book, The Soul Of An Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into The Wonder of Consciousness, and and it’s today’s get-the-week-started quote. Thank God It’s Monday!
“Spelling is the clothing of words, their outward visible sign, and even those who favor sweatpants in everyday life like to make a bella figura, as the Italians say–a good impression–in their prose. A misspelling undermines your authority.”
It’s always a treat to talk about one’s craft with a well-prepared, witty and gracious interviewer, and even more so on a program dedicated to the promotion of books, reading and ideas. I hit the mother lode speaking with The Ohio Channel‘s Dan Shellenbarger about my latest novel, Capitol Punishment, my writing process and juggling different projects while trying to maintain work-life balance. Here’s how it turned out . . .
“The important thing, as I’ve said before, is neither to get it written nor to get it right. The important thing is to do what works.”
“Tough, buff, smart and witty.” That might be how our dog thinks of himself when snoozing the day away chasing mountain lions in his dreams. But it’s also the conclusion that Reviewing the Evidence draws about my Columbus private detective, Andy Hayes. RTE calls Hayes’ latest outing, Capitol Punishment. “a winner.” To wit:
PI Andy Hayes is hired to protect a journalist who has made a few enemies, a job he fails to complete, then finds himself trying to solve the journalist’s murder.
Private Investigator Andy Hayes, always short of cash, takes on the job of protecting Lee Hershey, a journalist who has angered a number of people in the Statehouse in Columbus Ohio, It is 2016 and the Democratic presidential candidate is considering Ohio Governor Hubbard as a running mate. Ohio has always been considered THE swing state in Presidential elections. Hubbard is hot for the post, but his career hangs on the passing of a school-funding bill in a house that is controlled by the Republicans.
Hershey knows a great deal too much about how tainted everyone involved in the passage of the bill is, hence his need for muscle. And Andy (whom Hershey insists on calling Woody – an in-joke for Columbus readership) is the man for the job. Andy is an ex-football quarterback at Ohio State University, who dropped the ball in a shady act twenty years ago. But he is tough, buff, smart and witty. And he knows he will spend the rest of his life expiating his sin against both OSU and the Buckeye-crazy town. He is also trying to make his third potential marriage happen. So he is hard working, trying to keep his pants zipped and to be true to his word. Can you expect more from a noir hero?
When Hershey turns up dead on the floor of the Statehouse, Hayes has once again dropped the ball for not being there. It wasn’t Hayes’ fault but he still feels pretty guilty. There is a cast of suspects, all politicos with pretty good reasons for murder and it is up to Andy to do the work sorting all this out. Clues are few and far between and it isn’t until Andy becomes the killer’s potential victim that the pieces fall in place.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins really knows his stuff. As a legal affairs reporter for AP he understands complex issues like Ohio’s swing state status, how education bills push everyone’s buttons, whether it is the rural poor, the entitled middle class, the Charter School Advocates or the anti-Abortionists. Welsh-Huggins has written about how capital punishment is such a big deal in this trendy, foodie capital city. He is also savvy enough to realize how popular a book about Presidential politics could be during an election year, especially this 2016 election year.
And he also understands the darker places of the human heart. CAPITOL PUNISHMENT is a winner, and if you know Columbus, you will have fun following Andy Hayes through his city ramblings as he tracks the killer to the top of the groin-vaulted cupola of the Statehouse.
§ Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.