This may come as a surprise to some readers, but authors don’t always understand their own interior conflicts until they’ve already written about them. Such was my experience when writing “Desert Vengeance,” the new Lena Jones mystery.
Upon beginning the first draft of the book, I was under the impression that I believed in strict enforcement of the law in any and every case. That was before Lena Jones took over the book, over-ruling everything I thought I believed. Lena had a different take on the law and wasn’t afraid to act on it.
Maybe I’d better back up here. Lena Jones is a Scottsdale-based P.I. who always seems to find herself working on controversial cases. In “Desert Wives” and “Desert Lost,” she explored the sins of polygamy; in “Desert Cut” exposed the horrors of female genital mutilation; in “Desert Wind” she found herself immersed in a decades-old series of crimes committed by the U.S. government.
In each book, Lena may have explored the idea that “law” isn’t always the same as “justice,” but her conclusions never varied from my own.
Then came “Desert Vengeance.”
A little background on Lena. She was found at the age of four lying in a Phoenix, AZ street, with a bullet in her head. After spending months in a coma, she regained consciousness but no longer knew her name, who her parents were, or who had shot her. Unclaimed and considered unadoptable, she made her way through foster homes until she aged out of the CPS system and eventually became a Scottsdale PD detective. Rough childhood, right? But I’ve left out the roughest part: in one of her foster homes, a nine-year-old Lena was repeatedly raped by foster father “Papa” Brian Wycoff until she retaliated by stabbing him with a kitchen knife. The ensuing police investigation uncovered “Papa” Brian’s crimes against other children, and after a brief trial, he was sentenced to 25-years-to-life.
When I began “Desert Vengeance,” it was to explore the issue of Lena Jone’s own planned vengeance against the now-freed child rapist. Here’s the entire first chapter.
I was waiting for him when he stepped out of the prison van. The man who had raped me when I was nine years old squinted against the savage August sun and took a hesitant step towards the beat-up Honda Civic. The driver’s side door opened.
“Get in here quick!” the rapist’s wife yelled. “She’s here, too!”
And so I was. Instead of parking my tricked-out 1945 Jeep at the far side of the prison lot to escape notice, I had parked right behind the Civic. I wanted them both to see me, to take note, to realize that after almost thirty years I still remembered.
As the rapist shuffled towards his wife I stepped out of my Jeep. Smiled. Waved. Flashed my Vindicator. Made certain the rapist noticed the gleam of the sun along the knife’s ten-inch-long, tempered steel blade. Made certain the rapist knew it was nothing like the cheap kitchen knife I had defended myself with the last day I’d spent under his roof.
My Vindicator wouldn’t break.
Neither had I.
See what I mean? Lena, who had devoted her entire life to enforcing the law, was now planning to break it. To commit murder. To capitalize the word “law” by turning it “Law,” as in “The Law of the Jungle.”
It was only when I typed the last page of “Desert Vengeance” I realized, that all along, I had always been conflicted about the difference between the two.
Learn more about the Lena Jones mysteries by visiting http://www.bettywebb-mystery.com
BIO: Before writing full time, Betty Webb worked as a journalist, interviewing everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize-winners, and polygamy runaways. She is a member of the National Federation of Press Women, Authors Guild, and Mystery Writers of America.