Holiday Gift Specials

Do you have a mystery novel reader on your shopping list? Give an autographed book, naming you and the gift recipient in the inscription.

 Dear Mary,
John Doe thinks you will enjoy my latest mystery novel. I hope it rocks your holiday. Have a very Merry Christmas.
RJ McDonnell

Special Pricing:

* First edition hardcovers of Rock & Roll Homicide and Rock & Roll Rip-Off reduced from $25.95 to $19.99 each.
* Trade paperbacks of The Concert Killer and The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death $12.99 each.
* Set of all four novels in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series reduced from $77.88 to $59.99.
* All novels ordered through this website will be autographed. For customized inscription, send your name and the name of your gift recipient, as you want it to appear on your gift, to rj@rjmcdonnell.com the same day you place your order.

Rock & Roll Homicide





Rock & Roll Rip-Off





The Concert Killer





The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death





 Set of all four novels in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series





 – Custom inscribed books may only be ordered from this website: www.rjmcdonnell.com.

– Holiday Gift Special Pricing ends December 15th to ensure delivery by Christmas.

The Halloween Scene from The Concert Killer

By 4:00 PM CK was feeling like God had just shown His appreciation for his efforts to shut down the concert industry by helping him to land his second major contract in two weeks. Between the deal and tonight’s concert at Leatherneck Park in Oceanside, he was feeling like a very powerful man. That high was short lived as his cell phone vibrated and he checked the caller ID.

“Yes, Father,” he said.

As usual, his father began the phone call with a reading from the Bible. Upon concluding the reading, his father said, “The devil will be everywhere in the cities this weekend, my son.”

“Is he not also in the country, Father?” CK asked.

“We country folk spend more time in church and less time giving ourselves over to the urges of the flesh.”

CK said, “The Lord has been instrumental in helping me to succeed in business.”

“I don’t believe there are many Patricians seated at the right hand of the Father in the kingdom of heaven.”

CK wished he could find a way to explain about how he was going to shut down the concert industry. But he knew his father would instantly start lecturing on the Sixth Commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill. So he simply asked, “How is Mother?”

“She’s nearly worried to death that you’ll lose your soul associating with the godless masses in the city,” he thundered.

“It’s not where you are, it’s who you are. You and Mother did a wonderful job instilling a set of morals and values that don’t change with my address.”

His father began citing verses from the Bible, and CK tuned him out. He removed a dollar bill from his wallet, and stared at the Eye of Providence until his vision went out of focus. When he heard his father pause, CK said, “I have to go, Father. May the Lord be with you.”

“And also with you, my son,” he replied.

CK changed out of his business suit and into a pair of black jeans, a USMC sweatshirt, sneakers, and tucked the bill of a red Semper Fi cap into the back of his pants. He then pulled a yacht club windbreaker over the sweatshirt to wear through the resort lobby. He had made a reservation under an assumed name at a cheap motel in Oceanside, not far from the Marine base. This is where he’d change into the Halloween costume he would wear to the concert.

 

Kelly reminded me at least three times during the month that her high school friend, Lynette, was working at a haunted house in downtown San Diego throughout the Halloween season. I called at lunchtime and asked if she wanted to go see Lynette tonight. She was thrilled that I was paying attention. Lynette told her that if we went through the haunted house at the back end of the first group, she’d be able to chat for a minute and was looking forward to meeting me. Kelly thought the box office opened at 6:00 and the first tour went through at 6:30. I made reservations at a nice Italian bistro in the Gaslamp Quarter, not far from the haunted house, for 7:30.

Kelly suggested we wear Halloween costumes in keeping with the spirit of the weekend. But, knowing that the restaurant would not be catering to revelers, I told her we shouldn’t compete with Lynette’s outfit and should probably dress in the kind of casual clothes that horror movie victims wear.

Just before 6:00 we arrived at the box office, only to read a sign that it opens at 6:30. After a quick scan of the immediate area, I spotted a Hooter’s nearby and suggested we kill the half-hour by getting a drink.

“You were doing so well, up to this point,” Kelly said.

“Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun.”

“Fun for you. This was probably part of your plan all along”

“I’m not the one who said the box office opens at 6:00. I’ll bet the waitresses are dressed up for Halloween.”

Kelly reluctantly went along with my plan and, sure enough, the waitresses were in Halloween costumes. Our waitress was dressed in what appeared to be official USMC underwear, with a few cuts and tucks to the boxer shorts. Kelly landed a kick to my shinbone after I saluted her and said, “Private Pleasure reporting for duty, sir!”

After she took our orders and retreated to the bar, Kelly said, “I’ll bet you’re a riot at the tittie bars.”

“I don’t go to those places, except when I’m tailing someone for work or providing moral support at a bachelor party.”

“I saw how you looked at her,” Kelly said in a teasing manner.

“Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.” Classic quotes, like classic rock, can be timeless.

“Unless you want to switch to the No Fun Diet I suggest you be mindful of your eyes when she returns with our drinks.”

“I’ll stare at the floor as a sign of my true devotion to you, my love.”

Five minutes later our saucy soldier returned. True to my word, I held a $20 bill in my hand as I stared at her feet. “What color nail polish is that?” I asked.

“It’s camouflage, to go with my outfit,” she replied. “Do you like it?”

“I don’t think it’s such a good idea.”

“Why not?” she asked.

Looking into her eyes for the first time since she returned, I replied, “You don’t want the boys calling you camo toes, do you?”

My smile turned to a grimace as blood rushed to my shinbone.

 

The Jarhead Inn was everything CK expected. The desk clerk wasn’t the least bit surprised when CK said he didn’t have a credit card, but pulled out a small roll of twenty-dollar bills. The room would be $49.95 for the night.

“I’ll need $100 security deposit if you don’t have a card,” he said.

“Right,” CK replied, and pealed off five bills from his roll. “I like to get an early start in the morning. What time does the front desk open?”

“6:00 AM, sir,” he said.

“Banker’s hours,” CK said. “Are you OK with settling up right now if I let you keep the balance of the deposit for your trouble?”

“Yes, sir! That would be fine, sir!” the clerk said enthusiastically.

CK walked a block and a half to his car, returned with his suitcase, and carried it up a flight of exterior stairs to his room. After placing the suitcase on the floor at the foot of the bed, he closed the curtains and turned on all of the lights. He then dropped to his knees near the head of the bed, and with his fingers interlocked on the bedspread, CK recited the Lord’s Prayer aloud. Then he took a very hot shower, dried himself thoroughly, and stretched out naked on his bedspread for the next hour, staring at the ceiling. Statements such as: “I am a soldier in the Army of the Lord,” and, “Tonight I am the physical embodiment of the wrath of God,” were recited over and over.

CK arose from his bed at 7:30 PM and removed a costume from his suitcase. First, he put on a pair of red boxers. Over them he wore a pair of bellbottom blue jeans. He considered a similar pair with embroidery around the bottom hem, but decided against them to avoid standing out in the mind of one of the motel guests, should he be seen leaving for the concert. CK pulled on a T-shirt with the word “Nahum” stenciled in an abstract font across the front of its tie-dyed pattern. He then added nondescript socks and a new pair of cheap sneakers he picked up at a discount retailer in the South County.

He removed a long black wig he purchased in Los Angeles the previous week. Then he pulled a black cigar tube from the suitcase. Black electrical tape held one end of a small chain to the cigar tube, while the other end was attached to a black alligator clip. CK put on the wig, pulled it back into a ponytail, and used a black band to hold it in place. He then removed the wig, clipped the cigar tube into the ponytail, and tied the bottom end with a second band. He added a third band in the middle to make sure the tube didn’t poke out of the tail. A tie-dyed headband was removed from the suitcase and put in his pocket. He placed a fake beard, spirit gum, and a change of clothes in a Marine backpack he acquired at a military surplus store.

CK pulled a crewneck USMC shirt over the tie-dyed shirt. Then he carefully wound the ponytail on top of his head and placed the large red Marine cap over it. He felt for both ends of the cigar tube, to make sure the hat’s shape wasn’t distorted.

He removed a dollar bill from his wallet and a black pen from a suitcase pocket. Starting at the bottom of the Great Seal, he drew a black line through the lower four rows of pyramid blocks. He drew a broken line through the fifth row and said, “There are 13 rungs on my ladder. As I ascend these steps, help me to be worthy to enter Your kingdom.”

CK left his motel room at exactly 8:00 PM and trotted down the stairs. When he reached the bottom he heard, “Hey soldier, what’s the hurry?”

He spun around and saw a hooker in her early thirties standing in the doorway of the motel room at the foot of the stairs. All she was wearing was a miniskirt-length red T-shirt that read I’d rather be screwing a jar.

CK asked, “Isn’t there a man in your life who would rather see you dead than giving away your favors?”

“I ain’t givin’ nothin’ away, soldier. It’ll cost you fifty bucks if you want any favors from me.”

CK briefly considered citing scripture on how a harlot could still attain the kingdom of heaven if she would only repent. But a voice within reminded him to stay focused on one mission at a time.

“I’ll save my fifty for the collection plate.”

“You do that,” she said, “and I’ll save my pussy for after you get drunk. Knock four times if Mr. Seagrams changes your mind.”

 

Chapter 14

 

            Dale Ebonrite worked most of the shows at Leatherneck Park that attracted a teens and twenties crowd. He was thrilled that tonight’s show featured a techno band. Dale’s biggest profit margin came from selling ecstasy, which was the drug of choice for this crowd.

Leatherneck Park was Dale’s favorite concert venue. It’s the home of the Oceanside Leathernecks minor league baseball team, which goes out of its way to attract a family-oriented following. Behind the stands, down the right field line, is a children’s playground which is within the concourse, but sealed off from the rest of the park to make it easy for parents to keep an eye on their kids without worrying about wanderers, perverts, or drunken patrons. A small restroom is located adjacent to the playground, which is where Dale handles all transactions. His friend on the security staff was well connected and always managed to get assigned as the sole protector of that section. He kept his distance to avoid scaring off customers, but remained close enough to call Dale on his cell phone if one of the few Oceanside police officers assigned to the show happened to wander his way.

As usual, Dale planned to start dealing as soon as the warm-up act kicked off. He would quit around the third or fourth song of the headliner, then watch the show and troll for latecomers and those who wanted to double their pleasure. Business was brisk during the warm-up act and the break that followed. Two of his regular customers had bought him beers, which he finished just after the headliner took the stage.

 

On his way to Leatherneck Park, CK stopped his car in front of a vacant elementary school. Pulling his backpack up from the passenger seat floor, he removed his USMC shirt, and attached his beard with spirit gum. He then made sure his wig was straight, added the tie-dyed headband, and tucked the Marine shirt and cap into his bag.

He arrived inside Leatherneck Park 45 minutes after the warm-up was slated to begin. He immediately ordered two beers and began cruising the concourse. After a few minutes he found what he was looking for – a group of three girls in their late teens. They were dressed in bee costumes, that is, if bees suddenly decided to adopt a sexy look and spend the day at the beach.

“Hi girls,” he said.

“Want to help us get our buzz on?” asked the queen bee.

CK shared one of his beers and asked if they knew where he could score some X. They told him they weren’t into it, but would pay him to buy them more beer. He told them he could get in trouble for that, but allowed them to keep the one they were passing around.

A few minutes later he hit the jackpot. He saw two girls wearing glo necklaces and sucking on lollypops shaped like baby pacifiers. His online research told him these items were very common among ecstasy users. For a mere two sips of beer he was directed to the playground and told to say: Heather said to get me rolling.

By the time he got over there he could hear instruments being tuned and knew that the break was nearly over. He stood in the concession line nearest the playground and thoroughly inspected the surrounding area for security cameras. The only one he could see was aimed at the concession stands, so he pretended to reach for his wallet, checked his other pockets, and left the line without angling his face toward the camera.

Surveying the playground, CK saw about 10 people crowded around the swing, so he veered away and found a spot that was reasonably well lighted and away from the crowd. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and studied his notes on the names and opening lyrics of the headliner’s top songs.

As the band started playing he saw several people leave the playground area. Concerned that the dealer might close up shop to see the band, CK took another pass by the playground and saw three people bopping to the techno beat next to a playground swing. He decided that techno music made him feel less like dancing and more pressed to get on with his mission.

After glancing at his notes once again he saw a Halloween reveler with gigantic lips and teeth painted across his face emerge from the bathroom. CK backed off and waited. He discretely removed the cigar tube from his ponytail, then slid a capped syringe from the tube and put it in his pocket. When the next song started he recognized it as the third one on his list, and certain to draw the fans into a sight-line to the stage. Sure enough, he saw four people run from the playground.

As CK entered the playground he saw a guy of about his same age sitting on a swing. He was aware of CK’s presence, but acted very casual.

“Heather said to get me rolling,” CK stated with a smile.

“Step into my office,” Dale said, gesturing toward the restroom.

“Don’t mind if I do.”

When they got inside, Dale asked, “Straight X, or would you prefer kitty flipping?”

Time constraints trumped CK’s curiosity about the nature of kitty flipping. “Straight X.”

“They’re fifteen each. How many do you want?”

“Two ought to do me,” he replied. “But, before we do this I gotta ask you a question. I’ve been having a problem getting my girlfriend to put out. Do you think your X will do the trick?”

Dale replied, “You want some advice from the love doctor? Hang on a minute. I gotta take a piss.” He then turned his back on CK and stood in front of the urinal. As soon as the dealer faced the wall, CK removed the syringe from his pocket and pulled off the cap.

Dale said, “Your girlfriend wants it just as bad as you do. She’s just being controlled by the guilt that her parents are laying on her. The X will make that guilt roll away.”

“I gotta piss, too,” CK said, as he approached Dale.

When Dale started to zip up his pants, he glanced over his right shoulder just in time to catch sight of the syringe. His right forearm caught CK just below the elbow. Dale pivoted on his left heel, and tried to spin away. But he was pinned against a small tile wall that separated the urinals from the sinks.

CK used his legs, left shoulder and arm to hold Dale against the wall while he gripped the syringe in his fist with his thumb on the plunger. Dale put his right foot against the wall behind him and pushed. He expected his assailant to back up. But 18 years of farm chores built a lot of muscle mass. All Dale’s move managed to accomplish was to cause a blue drip to form on the tip of the needle, which was now just an inch from his eye.

“Take the cash and the stash. You know I’m not gonna report you,” Dale said in a strained voice.

“Not interested, pusher,” CK replied.

“You’re that girl’s brother. You can’t blame me. She told me she was buying the ten hits for a party. I couldn’t know that she’d take them all herself. You gotta believe me!”

CK lowered the syringe a couple of inches. “So, you’re not just a pusher, you’re also a murderer. The devil’s got a special place for guys like you.”

Dale desperately tried a head-butt move that he had seen in 100 movies. CK responded by pulling his head and shoulders back while keeping his hands in place. He also instinctively closed his eyes and turned his head. Before they reopened CK felt a tremendous weight pull his hands down.

For a moment he couldn’t comprehend what had happened. The pusher briefly convulsed on the floor while facing the tile that was at his back. A final spasm whipped the pushers head around and CK saw the syringe sticking out of his nostril. Dale had impaled himself on the needle as he finished the head-butt.

“That must be the kitty flip.”

CK peeked out the restroom door, then returned the syringe to the cigar tube and stuck it in his pocket.

He then removed a note that said X=V from a back pocket, and dropped it on the floor. After adjusting his wig in the mirror he glanced at the dealer and said, “Nice doing business with you.”

 

Aside from the Hooters detour, the evening went very well. I convinced Kelly’s friend that she nearly threw my heart into arrhythmia when she came out of nowhere in makeup and clothes that made her appear to be a pre-Technicolor, black & white zombie. She was as elated as an aspiring actress could be over her rave reviews.

Kelly and I discussed our domestic spat shortcomings over dinner, but in a positive way that made us feel like we were moving forward in our relationship. After dinner we stopped for a couple of drinks at Dick’s Last Resort, where the people-watching on Halloween weekend made the Star Wars Bar look pedestrian.

We were home before midnight and headed straight to bed. Normally, Kelly’s prep routine takes twice as long as mine and I’m in bed long before she emerges from the master bathroom. But I let her know I was taking the dog out to the backyard to be sure she was in bed first.

Earlier in the day I found a Big Bad Wolf rubber mask in the garage. After a little digging I also found the Granny outfit that Kelly wore in a school play last year. While Colonel Hogan did his business, I put on the outfit, cued up an old Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs CD, and put the CD remote in the apron pocket. I left the mask off until the last possible second, since prior experience taught me it didn’t take long for a rubber mask to make my face look like I just ran the Calcutta Marathon in record time.

After a couple of minutes the main light in the bedroom was replaced by Kelly’s blue meditation light. When Batman sees the Bat Signal he knows to get ready for some action. Kelly’s meditation light was my Bat Signal. Yes, I knew I’d be getting lucky with or without the costume and soundtrack. But, as any guy who’s ever taken his girlfriend to the back row of a drive-in for a horror film will tell you, a well-timed scare can be a powerful aphrodisiac.

I turned off the rest of the lights, moved to the left of the bedroom doorway, pulled the mask over my head, and pressed play on the CD remote. Right after Sam the Sham sang, “Who’s that I see walking in these woods? Why it’s Little Red Riding Hood,” I pounced on the bed and let rip with a powerful, “Aaaaahhhhhooooooooooooo!”

Kelly shrieked the scream of an amused participant. A second later the phone rang three feet to her left and it scared the shit out of her. I was hoping Caller ID would allow me to stay with Plan A. I’d been dying to launch into my parody as Sam sang “What big eyes you have” but it was not to be. Detective Walter Shamansky would only be calling at that hour for only one reason.

Launch Party Pics

A nice mix of family, friends, and readers helped to launch “The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death” at the Library Express in Scranton’s Steamtown Mall.

 

 

 

Local rock legend Robbie Walsh did an exceptional job of entertaining the crowd.

 

 

 

Library Express manager Andrea Talarico McGuigan and her assistant Vicki made everyone feel at home in this unique combination lending library and bookstore.

 

 

 

A giant chicken showed up and sampled the food & beverages. Fortunately, wings were not on the menu.

 

 

Five minutes after the chicken departed a werewolf stopped by. After seeing the bloody guitar on the cover of Rock & Roll Homicide, he ranted about needing to savage a fair maiden. We averted disaster by convincing him that fair maidens taste just like chicken.

 

Lou Refice of Minooka won the drawing. His big win happened earlier in the week when he became a first-time grandparent.

 

Thanks to all who helped to make the launch party a huge success. If you’re one of the many who purchased a copy of one of my novels, be sure to let me know what you think. My email address is on the copyright page of all four novels in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series.

Book Launch Party Invitation

Blog readers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends are invited to the upcoming launch party for my new novel, The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death. The party will be held in Northeastern Pennsylvania since most of the book’s scenes and references take place in Scranton, Clarks Summit, Moscow, Wilkes-Barre, Roaring Brook, Wyoming County, and Daleville. Here are the party details:

Date:              Saturday, September 1, 2012

Location:       Library Express, Steamtown Mall, Lackawanna Ave., Scranton, PA

Time:             1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Featuring:

  • Food & beverages
  • Book signing with personalized inscriptions
  • Discounts on earlier books in the series
  • Lots of fun and interesting people
  • A kid-friendly venue that is part lending library and part bookstore with a comfy seating area
  • Entertainment by NEPA rock legend, Robbie Walsh

If you read Rock & Roll Homicide, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, and/or The Concert Killer this will be the perfect place to talk about characters and plots with other readers. If you haven’t read any of the Rock & Roll Mystery Series it’s important to know that all of the novels were designed to be read as stand-alones. You don’t have to read them in order to understand what’s going on, although it’s fun to watch Jason Duffy develop as a young private investigator and to see how his relationship with Kelly survives some serious challenges.

If you’re interested in reading any or all of the first three books in the series prior to the party, the paper versions are now available at Library Express. They are offering a 20% discount on the two hardcovers: Rock & Roll Homicide and the 2010 Mystery/Thriller of the Year, Rock & Roll Rip-Off. The Concert Killer is available in trade paperback for half of the original price of the hardcovers.

Feel free to bring along friends and family members who enjoy reading mysteries. I look forward to talking with you soon.

RJ McDonnell

COMING August 21, 2012: THE CLASSIC ROCKERS REUNION WITH DEATH

The 4th novel in my Rock & Roll Mystery Series is scheduled for release on Tuesday, August 21, 2012.Two days later I’ll be appearing on the television news program PA Live on WBRE, an NBC affiliate.

There have been a few interesting developments since the release of #3, The Concert Killer. Most notable is the appearance of the series in Amazon Kindle’s Top 10 List. All three books reached #2 in the Hard-Boiled Mystery category, with at least one of these books hitting that level every month since March.

The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death sees San Diego PI, Jason Duffy, literally taken out of his comfort zone when he travels to Scranton, PA in January after his uncle Patrick’s best friend is murdered. Jason knows very little about Patrick because of a feud that caused an estrangement between his father and uncle over 40 years ago. He learns that Patrick and the victim were members of a rock band that nearly made it to the national scene in the late 60s, and were about to play a reunion concert in their hometown when the murder occurred.

The investigation leads Jason back to an “almost anything goes” era that is exacting a huge price many years later. To mix & master this musical mystery, Jason fills in for the murdered guitarist and soon finds himself struggling to avoid filling in a cemetery plot.

Someone doesn’t want that reunion concert to happen and is willing to do anything to cancel it forever. The case teaches Jason how easy it is for all of us to fall victim to our assumptions. It’s a lesson that could exact a tuition that may never be paid back.

For those of you interested in reading the series in order, here is the sequence: #1 Rock & Roll Homicide (2008); #2 Rock & Roll Rip-Off (2010); #3 The Concert Killer (2011); #4 The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death (2012). While each book can be read as a “stand alone” mystery relating to the rock music industry, there is a definite progression of relationships and Jason’s skill level from one novel to the next.

If you are a fan of the series and would like to help spread the word, please take a moment to write some brief comments in the Customer Reviews section at the bottom of each book’s Amazon page – even if it’s just two sentences. Several major review sites base coverage decisions on the number of reviews and the star ratings. Thanks in advance for your help.

WILL ROCK FICTION ROCK YOUR WORLD

Just before Christmas I received an email informing me that Amazon Kindle had ranked my novels #1, #2, and #4 in their Top 10 list of Rock and Roll Mystery Novels. It got me wondering about the overall popularity of rock fiction. So I did a little research to get a feel for what is happening within this subgenre.

I realized that a few mainstream fiction authors, such as Carl Haaisen and Nick Hornby had written popular rock novels. In my opinion, Hiaasen’s best was “Basket Case.” Most of you probably know of Hornby’s “High Fidelity,” which was made into a film starring John Cussack. I hadn’t realized that Jackie Collins wrote “Rock Star” and Salmon Rushdie received high praise for his rock novel, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet.”

I was aware that fellow rock novelist, Susan Helene Gottfried, keeps a list of Rock Novels on her website, West of Mars. A quick count told me she lists over 275 rock novels on the site, and has reviewed several. A little more digging revealed that there are several subsets to the subgenre: 80’s Rock, British Rock, Punk Rock, Alternative Rock and even Sci-Fi Rock each have several titles to choose from in the world of rock fiction.

What’s the appeal of rock fiction? It offers insights into the life of the musician as well as some of the unique experiences that fans merely glimpse when viewing a rockumentry. Nonfiction approaches to the lives of musicians traditionally attempt to normalize the lifestyle by playing down the difference between the stars and their fans. Rock fiction takes the opposite approach. It focuses on those differences as they relate to the story being told.

As a writer of rock mysteries, I attempt to expose the reader to experiences that don’t make the television gossip shows.  “Rock & Roll Homicide” gets into the issue of creative control; “Rock & Roll Rip-Off” has revealing scenes at a multi-band practice facility; and “The Concert Killer” gets into everything from backline techs to the wannabe groupie point of view. All of these elements fall within the confines of mystery reader expectations as they relate to fair play with clues. The difference is that the detective is a former club musician, and all of the cases in the series relate to the rock music industry.

The same principles hold true for rock fiction written in other genres. Romance readers have certain expectations, as do Horror, Sci-Fi, etc. The differences are the characters and the situations they find themselves in as a result of being professional musicians. While the main purpose of novels is to entertain, most readers report enjoying novels that teach them something they don’t know about the real world. Rock fans who also enjoy reading get the best of both worlds with rock fiction.

So, who is reading rock fiction? About four months after “Rock & Roll Homicide” was released, a national newspaper wrote an article about it based on an unusual demographic profile the received from MarketWatch. It said that half of my readers were traditional mystery fans who were over 40 years old. The other half was 18- to 35-year-olds who rarely read books. A little digging revealed that many of these readers were given the book after their parents or grandparents had read it, in hopes of generating an interest in reading. The article inspired a library book tour that I did in 2010 to help parents get their non-reading adult children into a subject that would hold their interest long enough to complete a book. The feedback from participants was very encouraging.

If you’re over 40 and love the rock experience but no longer have the time or desire to go to a show, rock fiction may be for you. If you’re an aspiring musician who wants to know more about the lifestyle than what is shown on MTV, rock fiction may be for you. If you’re an avid reader who likes to learn about unique aspects of life, rock fiction may be for you. With e-readers exploding in popularity and many titles priced around $2.99, it’s easy to find out if this subgenre rocks your world.

The Family Dynamics of the Rock & Roll Mystery Series

Action mysteries are usually plot driven stories with strong male protagonists overcoming numerous obstacles to uncover murderers and save attractive females in the process. The protagonists are typically police detectives or private investigators who are either single or divorced, creating the opportunity for sexual tension with the damsels in distress.

I freely admit to reading and enjoying novels with this dynamic for many years.  But after two years of writing for television, where winning formulas get done to death, I longed for something fresh. So I created Jason Duffy, a young private investigator in a serious relationship, who is slowly mending fences with his retired police detective father through a mother who quietly serves as the catalyst for healing.

Jason’s relationship with his father changed dramatically at the age of 12 when he told his parents he’d saved up enough money to buy an electric guitar. His father had seen too many rockers get involved with drugs to go along with his son’s request. But his mother felt he had the benefit of good parenting, knew the difference between right and wrong, and should be allowed to pursue his dream. The bottom line was that Jason got the guitar and, from that point forward, his dad spent a great deal of time at the local
Irish cop bar. Jason resented how his father’s frequent absences adversely affected the family.

A grudge formed between the two of them that went well beyond the discord affiliated with the leaving the nest syndrome. Those of you who are familiar with Irish Americans (like myself) know that grudges can qualify for Lifetime Achievement Awards in some families.

Jason worked his way through college as a club musician in a rock band. He continued playing with his band for two years after graduation while he held a day job as an outpatient mental health counselor. But counseling wasn’t in his blood. During the Cold War years, while Jason was still living at home, the only thing he and his father had in common was their mutual interest in watching crime dramas on television. Jason also closely followed his father’s cases, and never missed a backyard barbecue with his dad’s Irish cop buddies. When Jason decided that counseling wasn’t right for him, he started a PI internship and left the band.

The first novel in my series, Rock & Roll Homicide, opens with Jason very much over his head after accepting his first murder case. Mom recognized the fence mending opportunity and engineered a truce. Since that fateful day, Jason’s relationship with his father has consisted of a number of two steps forward, and one step back maneuvers; like a dance routine where both partners insist on leading.

A major step backwards involved Jason’s girlfriend, Kelly, in the second novel of the series, Rock & Roll Rip-Off (winner of an indie 2010 Mystery/Thriller of the Year Award). For the first time ever, Jason is dating a woman of Irish descent, and Dad is thrilled. In his exuberance, Dad made the mistake of asking, “When are you two getting married?”

Kelly is a second grade teacher who is passionate about her job and very supportive of Jason. Dad’s awkward question enabled me to flesh her out in a much more three dimensional supporting role. In this novel, the reader discovers more about Jason and Kelly as individuals and as a couple. Of course, there is a compelling criminal case going on at the same time that places huge demands on Jason’s attention. Once
again, he relies on his father’s assistance after Mom steps in to avert a return to the Cold War years.

Most people don’t think of family when they hear that I write the Rock & Roll Mystery Series. Yet it plays a major role in all of my novels. Every book in this series relates to some aspect of the music business. But if you’re looking for a key theme that ties them all together, pay attention to the family dynamics and you’ll see Jason and the main subplot characters grow and mature from one book to the next.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I use a bit of humor in between action scenes. If you enjoy a good whodunit with a few smiles and a musical twist, I’d love to introduce you to my fictional family. They may be a bit dysfunctional at times, but they never let a grudge completely block their deep seeded love for one another.

Halloween Humor from The Concert Killer

Many mystery/thriller writers hammer their readers relentlessly with non-stop tension. I use a bit of humor in between action scenes to give my readers a break. Following is an example of a light moment between my 28-year-old private investigator, Jason Duffy, and his girlfriend, Kelly:

Kelly reminded me at least three times during the month that her high school friend, Lynette, was working at a haunted house in downtown San Diego throughout the Halloween season. I called at lunchtime and asked if she wanted to go see Lynette tonight. She was thrilled that I was paying attention. Lynette told her that if we went through the haunted house at the back end of the first group, she’d be able to chat for a minute and was looking forward to meeting me. Kelly thought the box office opened at 6:00 and the first tour went through at 6:30. I made reservations at a nice Italian bistro in the Gaslamp Quarter, not far from the haunted house, for 7:30.

Kelly suggested we wear Halloween costumes in keeping with the spirit of the weekend. But, knowing that the restaurant would not be catering to revelers, I told her we shouldn’t compete with Lynette’s outfit and should probably dress in the kind of casual clothes that horror movie victims wear.

Just before 6:00 we arrived at the box office, only to read a sign that it opens at 6:30. After a quick scan of the immediate area, I spotted a Hooter’s nearby and suggested we kill the half-hour by getting a drink.

“You were doing so well, up to this point,” Kelly said.

“Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun.”

“Fun for you. This was probably part of your plan all along”

“I’m not the one who said the box office opens at 6:00. I’ll bet the waitresses are dressed up for Halloween.”

Kelly reluctantly went along with my plan and, sure enough, the waitresses were in Halloween costumes. Our waitress was dressed in what appeared to be official USMC underwear, with a few cuts and tucks to the boxer shorts. Kelly landed a kick to my shinbone after I saluted her and said, “Private Pleasure reporting for duty, sir!”

After she took our orders and retreated to the bar, Kelly said, “I’ll bet you’re a riot at the tittie bars.”

“I don’t go to those places, except when I’m tailing someone for work or providing moral support at a bachelor party.”

“I saw how you looked at her,” Kelly said in a teasing manner.

“Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.” Classic quotes, like classic rock, can be timeless.

“Unless you want to switch to the No Fun Diet I suggest you be mindful of your eyes when she returns with our drinks.”

“I’ll stare at the floor as a sign of my true devotion to you, my love.”

Five minutes later our saucy soldier returned. True to my word, I held a $20 bill in my hand as I stared at her feet. “What color nail polish is that?” I asked.

“It’s camouflage, to go with my outfit,” she replied. “Do you like it?”

“I don’t think it’s such a good idea.”

“Why not?” she asked.

Looking into her eyes for the first time since she returned, I replied, “You don’t want the boys calling you camo toes, do you?”

My smile turned to a grimace as blood rushed to my shinbone.

Convergence of the Rock & Roll Road Not Taken

I bought my first album at the age of ten. It was called Meet the Beatles. My big purchase happened on a school night, and my mother removed it from my room an hour past my bedtime after repeatedly telling me to turn it off. Being a kind soul and a music lover, she returned it first thing in the morning, and I listened non-stop until Dad drove my sister and I to school.

Mom didn’t look particularly surprised when the school nurse drove me home a half hour later with a phantom belly ache. She also wasn’t surprised to hear the album playing before the nurse left the house. But she was at a loss for words when they heard me trying to pick out the chords to I Wanna Hold Your Hand. It helped that the nurse lived less than a block away, and was friends with Mom.

In those days stay-at-home mothers were the norm, and our family budget didn’t allow for guitar lessons. But in my late teens I did manage to pick up quite a bit from the garage band down the street. I was a couple of years older than most of the band members, and on the concert committee at our local Penn State University campus. I took on the role of managing the band while playing in a trio on the side. At the time I was a bit overwhelmed. One of the guitarists from the garage band was progressing at an exceptional rate. In fact, most of the band members were sounding like pros. As it turned out, Robbie, the guitarist, and Jiggs, the drummer, went on to form a trio with Noel Redding, the bass player from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

My skill level improved over time, and I moved from Northeastern PA to San Diego hoping to earn a living as a musician. Within days of my arrival I met a talented lead guitarist with some local connections, and it looked as though my rock & roll dreams were about to come true. But sometimes fate has a way of hitting a sour note at the least opportune moment. Just as our band was coming together I shattered my left wrist playing a pickup game of football. I had bone graft surgery and spent 23 of the next 24 months in a cast.     Rehab brought back most of my dexterity, but I couldn’t grip a guitar for more than 15 minutes without getting shooting pains and losing power. Over the next five years I tried to rebuild the strength, but kept hitting a wall around the 15 minute mark.

Eventually, I gave up trying and focused on my job as a writer. I wrote resumes, newspaper articles, a careers column, and even wrote scripts for a comedy television program for two seasons. But my passion for music never died.

I transitioned into writing novels in 2004. My police detective father got me interested in mysteries at an early age. In crafting my fictional series PI, Jason Duffy, I incorporated some of my own history. Jason’s reason for ending his career as a club musician was the band’s inability to write original material. So he left the band and entered into a PI internship at the age of 25.

The year after I completed the first novel in the series, Rock & Roll Homicide, I moved back to PA and ran into Robbie. He was giving guitar lessons at a local studio. I decided to see if my 20 year layoff from playing guitar had improved the strength in my wrist. To my surprise I was able to play pain free for over an hour, so I took lessons for the next two years.

By the time Rock & Roll Rip-Off was released, I incorporated a dozen classic rock cover songs into my presentation at bookstores, record stores, and libraries. I described characters and scenes from my novels by relating them to well-known songs. My rock & roll road not taken was finally converging with my writing career.

On 9/1/11 The Concert Killer was released. This is my PI’s first serial killer case, and opens on the 4th murder. To introduce the novel I developed a unique book trailer that features an original song by the same name. The verses describe the first three murders and serve as a prequel to the book. The accompanying trailer  photos depict what is happening in the verses.

For the first time since my accident I feel like I’ve moved musically beyond my skill level on the day my wrist was shattered. The fork in my road of life has reached a nexus point where my passions for writing and music have fused. I’m hoping that you will take the time to contact me and share a story of how you overcame obstacles for the sake of your passion, whatever that may be.