Plains, rivers, huge mountains, small mountains, deserts, and oceans. America has all kinds of landscapes and all kinds of people living here. I was born and raised in the Ozarks. They’re not mountains, not really. There might be some tall hills, deep valleys, and rolling country, but not true mountains.
I still live in the Missouri Ozarks near my tiny hometown named Marble Hill. (No one is quite sure why it’s named that. Despite what Wikipedia says, there is no marble or marble-like rock anywhere around.) My wife (mystery writer Sharon Woods Hopkins, author of KILLERWATT, KILLERFIND, KILLERTRUST, and KILLERGROUND, later this year) and I live deep in the boondocks, which means few vehicles ever pass on the gravel road in front of our house. It also means that we’re living on someone else’s property. That’s right, we’re trespassing on where at one time only animals lived.
That really doesn’t bother them much. In fact, the deer love eating Sharon’s flowers, the armadillos love digging in the mulch around the trees in our yard, the foxes love denning in the deadfall in a patch of woods near the house, and the coyotes run howling, mostly at night. Although bears and mountain lions live in our neck of the woods, we haven’t seen any of them. Yet.
This description sounds pastoral. And it is. Yet, when it came time for me to try my hand at writing a mystery novel, I wandered around my couple of isolated acres, pondering the location of a story about violent crime. Saint Louis? Memphis? New Orleans? I’m familiar with those cities. The notion of crime in a city is standard fare in mysteries and I love urban mysteries. There’s also a strain of mysteries that take place in the country. That’s what I decided I wanted to do: Write a mystery about the rural area that I knew best. Folks out in the country can murder with the best of them. And the protagonist? I’m a retired judge, but my hero could be a working judge who’s tired of listening to boring stuff in the courtroom. In fact, he thinks he’d make a better detective than judge. Since he is a judge, the law enforcement folks are hardly thrilled to have him snooping where he shouldn’t be sticking his nose.
Thus was born Courting Murder:
When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he’s plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who’s always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.
I knew the rural setting was right because I received a sign from on high. On the jaunt where I finally decided the location for the crimes, a bald eagle swooped overhead and lit in a tall oak tree. She has built her nest somewhere back in the forest behind my house. She regularly flies over our pond and helps herself to whatever fish happen to be swimming too close to the surface.
(RIVER MOURN, the second in the series, won the 2014 Missouri Writers Guild Show-Me Best Book Award. BLOODY EARTH, the third in the series, will be out later this month!)
http://www.deadlywritespublishing.comCheck out my Judge Rosswell Carew Mysteries:COURTING MURDER
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