Earl Staggs

Earl Staggs

Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.  Email: earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net

Interview with Tall Chambers

by Earl Staggs

Recently, I’ve been intrigued by authors interviewing their characters.  I thought it was such a neat and interesting thing to do I decided to interview Tall Chambers, the main character in my Mystery/Thriller novel, JUSTIFIED ACTION.Justified Action

JUSTIFIED ACTION is a serious novel dealing with serious issues.  Tall works for an agency which tracks terrorists and puts them out of business before they strike.  He puts all that aside, however, when someone close to him is murdered.  Then it becomes a personal matter and nothing will stop Tall from finding the killer.

In spite of the seriousness of the story, I decided to have some fun with this interview.  I think you’ll learn a little about Tall and the story that plays out in the book.  I also hope you’ll find a chuckle and a grin along the way.

* * * * *

EARL  — Thanks for coming in for this interview, Tall. (stands, smiles, offers hand)


TALL  —  (shakes hands, sits) Not at all.  Thanks for inviting me.  Nice place you have here. What do you do?

EARL – I’m a writer. I sit here at my computer all day and punch out stories.

TALL – Interesting. Good luck with that, Carl.

EARL —  Uh. . .it’s Earl.

TALL – Sorry.

EARL – That’s okay, but speaking of first names, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you get that unusual one you have?

TALL  –  I don’t mind a bit.  A lot of people ask me about that.  My real name is Tallmadge, an old family name my mother picked out. As soon as I was old enough to talk, I asked people to shorten it to Tall. Everyone did  (grins) . . .except Mom, of course.

EARL  –So it’s not just because you actually are tall.

TALL  – No. I’ve been six foot three since I turned fifteen, but I was thin as a stick. In fact, my nickname was “Splinter.”  In the Army, I learned how to exercise and work out to build myself up.  I still work out an hour or two a day when I can.  I don’t want to become like one of those people who sit at a computer all day and. . .sorry.  No offense.

EARL  – Oh, none taken.  I really should exercise once in a while.  Do you miss the Army?

TALL  – Yes, I do. I didn’t agree with everything they did, but I felt part of something important and thought that in some small way, I could make a difference.

EARL —  But you left the Army. Why?

TALL —  I was reprimanded and demoted for striking a superior officer.

EARL – Oh, my.  Why on earth would you do that?

TALL – I had no choice.  He was doing something that could have ruined his career.  I only wanted to stop him, but he started throwing punches at me.  I threw one back and that was the end of the fight and my career in the Army.

EARL  – I understand after you left the Army, you joined a special agency that does something pretty important.

TALL  – The agency I’m with now is not one of those everyone knows about like the CIA or FBI. This agency keeps a low profile. Very few people even know it exists. I hope you understand I can’t say much about it.

EARL  – So, if you told me, you’d have to kill me?  (laughs)

TALL  – (shrugs – doesn’t laugh)

EARL  – (gulps)  Okay, moving right along.  Can you tell us what this agency does?

TALL  – We track subversive and terrorist groups both here and overseas.  If we determine they’re a threat to innocent lives, we put them down.

EARL  – (grins)  When you say “put them down,” do you mean. . .?

TALL  – (shrugs – doesn’t grin)  Unfortunately, most of them choose to die for their cause rather than go to prison, so we accommodate them. If they want to meet Allah and collect their virgins, we put them in the express lane.

EARL  – (gulps) I see. How do you feel about that?

TALL  – I don’t enjoy it, but it’s necessary. We have a motto:  kill one terrorist, save a hundred lives.  After a while, you learn to think about the lives saved, not those taken.

EARL  – How do you go about doing. . .uh. . .what you do?

TALL  – The usual. Guns, explosives, whatever it takes.

EARL  –  The book is called Justified Action. Is it all about taking out terrorists?

TALL  – (hesitates, looks away) No, not for me. Someone very close to me is murdered. After that, my only focus is finding the people responsible and making things right. I use the resources of the agency, but it’s completely my own personal operation.

EARL  – (gulps)  When you say “making things right,” do you mean. . . ?

TALL  – (shrugs – doesn’t reply)

EARL  – So are you able to find who was responsible and make them pay?

TALL  – (looks away again) Not exactly. It gets complicated. A lot of people are involved, some in high places.

EARL  – How high?

TALL  – As high as you can go.  I can’t say any more than that. I hope you understand.

EARL – I understand completely.  Let me ask you about—

TALL — (looks at watch, stands up) I’m sorry, but I have to go now. I have a job to do just across the street. (smiles, extends hand)

EARL  – (stands, shakes hands)  Uh, okay.  Just across the street? When you say you “have a job to do,” do you mean. . . ?

TALL  –(turns, walks to door)  You’ll hear a lot of noise. I wouldn’t go outside for a while.

EARL  –(gulps, watches him go)

* * *

Thanks for letting me take up some space here, PJ.  I enjoy the interviews and articles you do, and I appreciate the opportunity to make an appearance.

If I may, I’d like to invite your readers to come over and visit my website where they can:

. . . . .read Chapter One of JUSTIFIED ACTION featuring Tall Chambers.

. . . . .read Chapter One of my Mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.

. . . . .read a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written.

. . . . .read another story there called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with my boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.  There’s even a picture of me with Roy to prove it’s all true.

. . . . .and more.

Here’s where:  http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

 Hey Earl – you are welcome here any old time! And how bout this all of ya’ll who’ve now had the pleasure of meeting Tall Chambers. Why don’t you leave us a comment and tell us who you think he looks like? Better yet, send a photo! I bet I can wrangle Earl into a drawing for something free for someone. Let’s hear it!

An interview with Earl Staggs

Earl Staggs

Mystery author Earl Staggs  has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. He recently received his second Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the year.


Besides all that, he’s been a really good friend of mine for more years than I’ll admit! Here’s what he has to say today:


PJ: How long have you been writing?

Earl: During all the years I spent raising a family and making a living in the real world – mostly as a salesman – I secretly harbored the crazy idea of being a writer. When I semi-retired in 1995, left the cold winters of Maryland behind and moved south, I decided it was time to give it a serious try. It was a slow start since I had no real training or experience, but that’s when I actually began writing. Wow. I hadn’t really thought about it in number of years, but a little simple math tells us that’s seventeen years, doesn’t it? That’s okay. While the years flew by, I was having fun.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?


Earl: A story of mine was accepted by and appeared in the spring 1998 issue of The Cozy Detective Mystery Magazine. Never mind that it was a small, little-known magazine, that I wasn’t paid a penny for the story, or that the magazine disappeared after another issue or two. The editor of a print magazine declared my story good enough to publish. That planted a suspicion in my mind that I could actually BE a writer.

That suspicion wasn’t truly confirmed until 2002 when, after seeing a number of stories accepted and published in various venues, I received a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. The award was for a story titled “All the Fine Actors” which appeared in a new-fangled kind of magazine. It wasn’t a print magazine, but was electronically published on the Internet. The magazine was called “EWG Presents: Without a Clue” and the editor was a lovely lady I knew as Patti Nunn, a struggling writer herself. The magazine closed a few years later and the editor went on to become a well-known and highly-respected publicist who goes by the initials “PJ.” (Hmmm. I wonder if she remembers me.)

At any rate, even though outside the short mystery fiction community, no one knew of me, winning the Derringer Award gave me the confidence to feel successful as a writer. Without that confidence, I would not have thought it possible to have a novel published.

PJ: Hmmm the name Slasher comes to  mind, but I’m sure that’s a figment of my imagination. Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Earl: In one way, it’s everything I expected. There’s a satisfaction hard to describe when I finish a story and feel it’s as good as it can be. On a much smaller scale, it’s the same feeling DaVinci had when he paid his model and said, “Thanks, Mona, it’s done and you can go home now.” The same feeling Michelangelo had when he looked up and said, “Fantastic! But I’ll never do another ceiling.”

There’s a special joy and thrill to begin with a blank canvas — or a blank page — and create something new and original you can feel proud to send out into the world carrying your name. That’s what I always thought writing would be like, and that’s the way it is for me now.

In another way, it’s totally different. I grew up thinking, like everyone else, that it went like this: you write a good book, find an agent, a publisher pays you a bunch of money, and you spend the rest of your life being rich and famous. Maybe it was like that at one time, maybe not, but the reality is far from it now.

Like so many other industries, the publishing industry is struggling to stay afloat. Rarely do publishers take chances on unknown authors. Many agents have left the business or are looking for a new line of work. Authors must decide whether to pray for that one in a million break the way it used to be, lower their expectations and sign with a small press, or join the “ebook revolution” via digital self-publishing.

No one knows for sure what publishing will be like in the future. There is, however, one thing I know for sure. Just as there will always be artists willing to hire a model to “Sit still and give me a tiny little smile” and ones willing to climb a ladder and paint a ceiling, there will always be writers unable to resist the challenge of filling a blank page with something they can be proud of. It’s what we do and will continue to do, no matter what.

Thank you for allowing me to visit Bookbrowsing. I enjoy talking about writing almost as much as I enjoy writing.


Currently in publication:



A mystery novel with a long list of Five Star reviews.

“Someone is leaving a trail of bodies from Baltimore to Ocean City and Adam Kingston is the only one who can stop him.”

Read Chapter One at: http://tinyurl.com/7xshlhw



16 Tales of Mystery from Hardboiled to Humor

Includes 2002 Derringer Award winner “All the Fine Actors”

Available in print form or ebook at:  http://tinyurl.com/7fz8u6m



Available for all ereaders at Untreed Reads: http://tinyurl.com/7h4nays



****2012 Derringer Award Winner****

A modern day bounty hunter follows a bail jumper to Texas where he has to tangle with a mobster from back east as well as a local legend about Billy the Kid. Novella. $1.99



The first appearance of Adam Kingston, later featured in the novel MEMORY OF A MURDER. Novella. $1.50



Sheriff Molly Goodall has to deal with a rash of tractor thefts, a deputy who wants to be a SWAT member, and having to judge the winning entry in The Thanksgiving Cookoff.

Short story. $.99



Thank you so much, Earl, for stopping by. I can’t WAIT to finally read more of Tall Chambers and I strongly encourage everyone who reads this to read everything of Earl’s you can find. He’s worth the effort! Any questions or comments?