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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Crime

Emily Kostova (of Emily’s Lair, by Cary Grossman)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the owner of a local bookstore. Her knowledge of the Whitechapel murders and of Jack the Ripper bring her to the attention of the police. She is here to tell us about how investigating a current murder brought up a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Emily, the proud owner of Emily’s Lair, a private, non-corporate bookshop in New Vernon, Connecticut, with a wonderful variety of books. There’s an entire wall dedicated to classic literature, for example, sections on art, exploration, science, history, ancient civilizations, even true crime. You can get the latest releases, of course, but most of the shop is made up of books that I find interesting and think other people will too. I’m especially proud of the special section in back that’s filled with books on the European witch hunts. It also features more than one biography on the woman responsible for singlehandedly ending the witch hunts, Liesbeth Jansson.

Liesbeth Jansson? Who was she?

She was a woman from Breda, a city in the Netherlands. She got married to a professor from Leiden, a city that became a beacon of the Enlightenment. He died when the Plague swept through Leiden, and because Liesbeth was smart and strong-willed and refused to conform to what citizens at the time considered to be a “proper Christian woman,” she became a target. At that time, women who were different, or, especially, who weren’t submissive to men, were often accused of witchcraft.

Was Liesbeth Jansson accused of witchcraft?

Oh yes. But she fought back. You see, none of the women accused of witchcraft—the accused were almost always women—were actually witches. Many were elderly spinsters, midwives, or rich widows like Liesbeth. If you had money, you were a prime target because a witch’s money was always seized by the state, and witch hunters loved money. But with Liesbeth they had stumbled on someone they never expected to encounter—a woman with real power. She escaped, hunted down each of her accusers, and killed them in a very public and brutal manner. Once people realized there was a chance that they might accuse a woman who could fight back, the witch hunts ended.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I met Will, a homicide detective. I fell for him right away despite that he was questioning me. You see, I was a person of interest in a murder that Will was investigating because I had once dated the man who was killed. Will came in the shop to ask me some questions; that’s how we met.

Continue reading “Emily Kostova (of Emily’s Lair, by Cary Grossman)”

Dayna Chrissie (of the Fantasy & Forensics series, by Michael Angel)

Dear readers, tonight we host LAPD’s best detective, or at least she was until transported to the magical world of Andeluvia. She is here to tell us of applying modern forensics to crime scenes involving centaurs, dragons, and other creatures.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Pike County, Illinois. Pike County is known for deer hunting, farming, and apple cider, in that order. The kind of place where people say ‘gosh’, ‘darn’ and ‘shucks’. Very wholesome. I couldn’t wait to up stakes for UChicago as soon as I was accepted there as an undergrad.

You didn’t like where you grew up? Surely you have some cherished memories of the place?

It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t fit in. I took a lot after Wednesday Addams. Moody, dressed in more black than my Mom would’ve liked. Put it this way, I was the only kid who looked forward to dissecting frogs in biology class.

As far as memories…one winter when I was seven years old, I found a trail of blood spatters leading from the woods towards my family’s garage. I found my father inside, crying over our open chest freezer. In it was a doe he’d shot. He was a hunter, taking game that was in season, but what shook him to the core was that this doe had spoken to him right before she died.

I don’t know if I’d call that a ‘cherished’ memory…but it was my first encounter with the magical land of Andeluvia.

It wouldn’t be my last.

What do you do now?

Officially?  I’ve been working as a Crime Scene Investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department for the past few years. I’m the one who the cops call in after they find the body, and I also perform the follow-up in the lab.

Un-officially, I’m part of the Andeluvian Royal Court. I do my best to solve mysteries in a land of magic using good old fashioned forensic techniques. I also try to help out whenever a magical creature’s in trouble.

You know, that is kind of wild now that I said that out loud…

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Anything happening with me is like C.S. Lewis meeting modern CSI!

Right now, I’m busy solving a murder case. The Andeluvians believe the Good King Benedict was killed by the ruler of the Centaur Realm, King Angbor Skullsplitter.

I’ve got about three days, max, to solve the case before the two kingdoms go to war. Hey, no pressure, right?

Continue reading “Dayna Chrissie (of the Fantasy & Forensics series, by Michael Angel)”

Tillman Rosenbaum (of the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series, by Debbie Burke)

Dear readers, tonight in an interesting twist we have both a character — and his author! He’s a lawyer assisting the protagonist, and has his own style of doing things.


Debbie Burke: Tillman Rosenbaum is the brilliant, arrogant, cynical attorney who elbowed his way into
the first book in the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series and refused to leave. Today, I’m interviewing Tillman for The Protagonist Speaks. Thank you for talking with me, Tillman.

Tillman Rosenbaum drinks Glenfiddich single malt scotch while his intense dark eyes pin.me to my barstool. His baritone sounds like God in a cave.

TR: Get this straight right up front—I didn’t agree to this interview. Tawny did.

DB: You seem hostile?

TR: We can talk all day about landmark cases, precedents I’ve set, innocent people I’ve
gotten acquitted. But nothing personal. Understand?

DB: Uh, okay. Since Tawny is one of the innocents you saved, why don’t you tell us how
you first met?

TR: Tawny had unwittingly gotten involved with a terrorist (Book 1 – Instrument of the
Devil
). Feds were after her, seized her bank account. She was in deep shit and her only crime
was trusting the wrong guy. I like a righteous cause.

DB: You’re the crusader hero?

TR: I’m the asshole who backed down Goliath. Afterwards, I offered her a job. She was
broke from her late husband’s medical bills, doesn’t have much education, dyslexic—helluva
time reading, can’t spell. But she’s really bright and has this gift. People open up to her. Clients
tell her the secrets they’re afraid to tell me.

DB: You’re six-seven, aggressive, and sarcastic. Can’t imagine why clients would be scared
of you.

TR (snorts): I scare prosecutors and judges, too. Underneath this gruff exterior beats a heart
of stone. In more than twenty years of practice, I only lost three cases.

DB: Your style of questioning differs from Tawny’s.

TR: Hell yes. I jump on ’em with both feet. She just smiles, like the sun breaking through
clouds, and then she listens. Finds out the damnedest shit that way. (shakes his head in
amazement
)

DB: So your skills complement each other?

TR: Oh yeah. Like when my old man was targeted by this sexy con artist (Book 2 -Stalking
Midas
). He’s a smart financier, made millions, but an unprincipled prick. Serial womanizer.
Drove my mother to suicide. Suddenly he’s broke. Refuses to talk to me. But damned if Tawny
doesn’t get him to open up. She cracked the scam. Unfortunately, the con artist almost killed her
in the process. (looks away, blinks hard, and swallows)

Continue reading “Tillman Rosenbaum (of the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series, by Debbie Burke)”

Nick Walker (of the United Federation Marshal series, by John Bowers)

Dear readers, tonight with us a is law-enforcement officer on a visit between his interstellar travels. He is here to tell us about space travel and gun-fights among the asteroids.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born and raised in Chowchilla, a farming community that became the capital of CentCal when the old California was split into six states. It’s not a large city, only a million people, and it’s still an idyllic place to grow up. My family lived just outside the city, so I was a country kid. We were surrounded by cotton and alfalfa fields.

A neighbor had horses and we rode them sometimes; we also raced our hoversleds, usually at night so my parents didn’t find out.

What made you the person you are today?

Oh, Jesus, what a loaded question!

First off, my dad was a Protestant minister and my mother was Catholic. My dad raised me Protestant and my mom raised my sister Catholic. That’s how they compromised. But I’m an avid reader and I love history. In the course of my studies, I came to have serious reservations about religion, and eventually I quit going to church…which didn’t make my dad happy.

Then I joined the Star Marines. Everything that happened afterward pretty much started with that.

Were you ever in combat?

Yes. A year after I finished boot camp, the revolution exploded on Alpha Centauri 2 and my unit, the 33rd Star Marine Division, was deployed. The next two years were the worst of my life; I was convinced I would never come out of it alive, but somehow I did.

Weren’t you awarded the Galaxy Cross? Tell us about that.

I’d rather not, actually. I lost too many good friends, saw too many innocent people die. What happened in that church tower…well, I didn’t have much of a choice. We were surrounded, cut off, and outnumbered nearly ten to one. The Freaks were cutting us to pieces, and I was the only surviving Star Marine who was qualified on that sniper rifle, so…

Sorry. Next question, please.

What do you do now?

I’m a U.F. Marshal. Retired…I think.

What does that mean?

Well, I’ve been doing this for almost ten years. Lots of close calls. That was okay when I was single, but I have a family now, and I’d like to live long enough to enjoy them. Maybe, when the kids are grown, I’ll go back to it. Right now…I’m not sure.

Continue reading “Nick Walker (of the United Federation Marshal series, by John Bowers)”

Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a man back from a decade of exile. He’s here to tell us about a world of death, corruption, shady deals and dirty deeds — just like old times — and of the Skyway Men that set him up.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born on the skyland of Hassan but I can’t remember much about that because, when I was five years old, my parents sold me to the Skyway Men and I moved to Girindult. I guess they needed to money but I don’t know for sure.

Girindult is a tiny skyland that’s been part of the Last Chance Archipelago for fifty years or more, moving between Rookery Reef, High Plain and Wind Haven. It’s known for metalworking. Up top is foundries and smithies and silversmiths and what-not. It’s hot. It stinks. It’s noisy. There’s smoke and acid and a constant clatter. Endless, deafening clatter. It keeps away the tourists, I suppose, which means the real purpose of the skyland is easier to hide. Down below, in the tunnels, it the main training center for the skyway men. With all the noise above the tourists couldn’t hear the gunshots and the screams even if they were paid to.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Favourite toy? The skyway men teach recruits to make their own weapons for some reason; I was quite fond of the first throwing knife I made. I lost that when an older boy fell off the side of the skyland with it still stuck in his throat.

What do you do now?

I screwed up a mission. I mean, it wasn’t my fault. I was young and had too many people telling me what to do and I couldn’t please everyone. But I took the blame and they shipped me off to rot on Whiparill, an insignificant farming skyland where, funnily enough, I ended up doing metalwork. I guess the training paid off after all. I waited ten years before they finally came looking for me for another mission.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I really wasn’t expecting to be given another job. I thought if the Skyway Men ever came looking for me it would be to make sure they wouldn’t have to worry about me ever again. But when I got the chance to get back in I was not going to screw it up. It seemed to be a pretty simple job. Break into a laboratory, steal an experimental crystal-machine and post it to the local Operations Manager. Of course, if it had been simple I wouldn’t be here.

Continue reading “Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)”

Jarvis Mann (of his eponymous series, by R Weir)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young private detective from Denver. In a classic hard-boiled style, he tangles with anything from small-time gangsters to serial killers.


Tell us a little about what you were like growing up?

I was a good kid for the most part, until I hit my teen years. Then all hell broke loose and I was constantly getting in trouble; stealing items when I thought I could get away with it and getting into fights with my older brother. It got to the point where my father had a Polk County Sheriff friend of his lock me up in the county jail for a few hours to give me a taste of what prison life was like. And I didn’t care for the incarceration at all, the restrictive confinement getting my attention.

What did you enjoy doing as a child? Any cherished memories?

Cherished memories were of playing little league baseball, shooting hoops with friends and occasionally throwing around the pigskin, at least when I wasn’t getting into trouble. Even though I was athletic, it was too bad I wasn’t proficient at any of those sports. Going pro would have been an exciting career choice, and infinitely less dangerous than the one I chose.

What do you do now?

After I got my life straightened out, thanks to being scared out of my wits by the Sheriff, I decided I wanted to be a detective. Not one who worked for the city, county or federal government. But a private detective. I wasn’t the best at following orders and being my own boss became the logical choice. I was always good shadowing people as a kid; lurking and stalking to see what they were up to. And best of all I would get paid for it, though not a lot for the first few years.

Continue reading “Jarvis Mann (of his eponymous series, by R Weir)”

Livio Marchiori (of EVO, by Diane May)

Dear readers, tonight with me is homicide detective Livio Marchiori from Verona, Italy, who is currently working on a case which threw the beautiful city of Romeo and Juliet into panic. Captain Marchiori is one of the best detectives in town, his rate of solved cases being the highest in Northern Italy. He is now facing The Hypnotist, a serial killer whose modus operandi borders the supernatural and who is as elusive as a ghost, and is here to tell us a little bit about himself and his investigation.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Sicily and if there’s one thing you should know about growing up there is that Sicilian mothers are like fire-spitting dragons.

What do you mean?

Let me give you a few examples so you understand:

If she tells you “dinner’s ready” your ass better be at the table the very next second or you’ll be sorry (which means she’ll use her most cherished weapon, the wooden spoon, to make sure you won’t be able to sit on your ass for a few days).

You can’t walk barefoot around the house because you’ll get sick and die (must be some fatal disease known only to Sicilian mothers, because the rest of the world, or even Italy for that matter, don’t seem to have a problem with that).

And last but not least, if you’re a man and have a Sicilian mother: no woman, no matter who she is, no matter how beautiful and kind and smart she is, will ever be good enough for you. Forget it.

And another thing you should know about Sicily is that the best cannolis in the world are made there. Period.

There’s a serial killer loose on the streets of Verona. What can you tell me about the case?

It’s an ongoing investigation, so not much. What do you want to know?

What is the killer’s MO?

We don’t know yet, but the victims look like they had been dipped in boiling water. I’ll never forget the day we found the first victim… his face was red like blood, his mouth twisted in a silent scream. But it was his eyes that gave everyone nightmares. Wide open and sunk deep into his skull, they looked so terrifyingly empty as if the man’s very soul had wrenched itself free from that tortured body without leaving any trace of its presence there. A mask of unspeakable horrors.

The press calls him The Hypnotist. Why?

Because he wants us to believe he has the ability to hypnotize people… to death.

I take it you don’t believe in hypnosis then?

I don’t believe in elves, fairies and Santa Claus, or that the income tax is not meant to rob you blind, so I sure as hell don’t believe in all that mambo-jumbo called hypnosis.

What if he really does hypnotise people to death?

Are you suggesting he might be some kind of a supernatural… something? He’s not. He’s just a man who found a new sick way to kill. But make no mistake, he’s as human as you and me. I just need to get inside his mind and figure out how he does it exactly.

Well, detective, I for one really hope you’ll catch him soon. Let’s lighten up the mood a bit, do you know any good police jokes?

What do you call it when a prisoner takes his own mug shot?

No clue.

A cellfie.

Who do you call when Zika infected mosquitoes attack?

No idea.

The SWAT team. Want me to go on? Continue reading “Livio Marchiori (of EVO, by Diane May)”

Dai and Julia (of Dying to be Roman, by Jane Jago and EM Swift Hook)

Dear readers, tonight with me are two people from the modern-day Roman province of Britannia. They are here to tell us about life as law-enforcement officers in the empire that never collapsed.

An unlikely pair, Dai is a Briton and a hard-working Investigator trying to solve a brutal string of murders and Julia, a Roman Inquisitor, sent to pour oil on troublesome provincial waters when a Roman citizen joins the body count.

They are here to tell us about their adventures.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Julia: I spent the first five years of my life in the slums that gather around the skirts of Rome. Then my mother died and my grandparents took me in. It still wasn’t a good part of town, but I was loved and I had enough to eat.

Dai: For a Briton, I had it pretty good. My family are well known landowners around Viriconium. No Citizen rights, of course, which meant my education was pretty rustic. But it’s a lovely place when you get out into the hinterland away from the city itself. I did well enough at school to get into the academy in Aqua Sulis – yes, we do have one or two academies in Britannia, even if they are not in the top one hundred recommended.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Julia: I suppose my favourite thing was my adoptive brother: he’s twenty years older than me and when he was home he would carry me around on his back. And my grandmother had a little dog called Toto. I would spend hours combing his coat

Dai: I loved running and I still pride myself on my physical fitness. As a boy I was a reader and a dreamer, always trying to hide from chores on the family farm. There was a place I used to love going to – a small valley with standing stones. No one ever went there, so I would run there and sit and read with my back to one of the stones. Continue reading “Dai and Julia (of Dying to be Roman, by Jane Jago and EM Swift Hook)”

Dana McCarren (of The Hook, by Kathleen Doler)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a globe-trotting journalist making the journey back to her childhood town, a place she has been running away from all her life.

She is there to reconnect with her family, her drug-addicted brother, and the town’s tight-knit surfing community. In the process she runs into a gang war, a violent drug kingpin, the FBI, and a whole new family crisis.

She is here to tell us about facing her ruinous childhood, her inability to sustain relationships, and her struggle to move on with her life. 


Tell us a little about growing up in Half Moon Bay and learning to surf?

When he was a thirteen-year-old grommet, my older brother, Shane, started learning to surf with his buddy, Craig. I was always determined to do anything Shane did. So, I’d ride my bike out of the neighborhood and hunt them down — I had the makings of a journalist even as a tween. I’d pedal as fast as I could…away from that house, away to anywhere. Finally, Craig got tired of seeing me sitting alone on the foggy damp cliffs, watching. For my twelfth birthday, he gave me his old yellowed and dented surfboard, coated with dirt-encrusted surf wax. It was waterlogged, heavy and hideous, but it smelled like coconuts and it was mine. I started trying to ride it, getting drilled into the sand regularly. I was hooked. Surf rushes. It fills my ears and quiets my brain. It washes off the shame.

Do you have any cherished childhood memories?

Cherished? Not a word I’d ever use in the same sentence as “childhood.” I ran away from my fucked-up family (sorry, journalists always have potty mouths) as soon as I’d graduated from high school, when I was just seventeen. I rarely visit my hometown of Half Moon Bay. It can suffocate me worse than a collapsing wave. Craig helped me make my escape to college…at the time, Shane was already self-medicating, escaping in another way.

What do you do now?

Although I’m a business journalist with a well-respected newspaper I like to tell people I’m a professional gossip. Really, what do I do? I get people to tell me things they’re not supposed to say and I’m not supposed to know. If I ask the right question, the person I’m interviewing squirms. That tells me I’m on the right track. I’m a road warrior; I travel frequently for work. It’s a great way to avoid having a real life, one with relationships and commitments. I don’t have pets; hell, I have a hard time keeping house plants alive.

Continue reading “Dana McCarren (of The Hook, by Kathleen Doler)”

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