Search

The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Tag

Mystery

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)”

Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a deaf art student, who was dragged into a trail of murder, revenge and vengeance spanning centuries and countries.


What was it like living in London, then moving to Spain with your Aunt and Uncle?

For some reason, I don’t remember much about living in London. Snippets of events pop up here and there, they just don’t seem real. I remember our house in London. It always felt so cold, impersonal. I felt I had to tip toe around everywhere.

My father had inherited the house from some long lost relative. I think a part of me blocks out a lot of my earlier childhood.

It felt so different when I moved to Spain when I was 10. My aunt had made sure to make her house a home. Everything in their house felt like it had meaning. My bedroom actually felt like a sanctuary, instead of some place just to sleep in.

I missed my mother; however, for the first time, I felt safe, I felt part of a family.

What is your most cherished memory, and how does the bad memory of your father haunt the good ones?

Going to the Art museum with my mum is one of my most cherished moments, I guess one of the only times I can clearly remember from back then.

My nightmares always involve that museum, and would rapidly take me to the night the car crashed. In my nightmare, I clearly remember hearing my mum call for me, and then I see my body falling down the stairs, my father watching from above…

I don’t know if my nightmares cloud my actual memories, I struggle to picture what happened.

Yelling, threats, my fear of my father all felt so real at the time. When I wake, I just don’t know what is real, and what is imagined… Except that Art Museum.

This is a pretty personal question, how does being deaf affect what you are doing now?

Being deaf has both advantages and disadvantages. I don’t hear if someone is behind me, I sense it, I guess. When I was younger, I was terrified something bad would happen, I couldn’t ‘hear’ it coming.

So, I guess I fine-tuned my other senses. Trained myself to sense a change in the way the air flowed around me when someone was close.

The way nature and objects moved, birds suddenly scattering when something or someone disturbs it.

The smell of cologne or perfume, a hint of curry, tobacco or coffee.

Smelling, tasting, seeing small disruptions to create a more detailed picture around me. Learning to understand how to interpret those small changes.

Now, I use that to watch people. Watch how their lips move when they talk, how their feet are positioned, the way they hold their hands, small ticks that indicate to me they are holding back.

I can’t hear the tone of voice, I can’t hear if they’re angry or sad. Instead, I watch their face, learn the intricacies of their expressions.

That gives me the confidence. I don’t have to rely on others, that’s important to me.

Which is why, I guess, I love Art. I was studying Art History at Seville University, taking after my mum, in some ways. The picture holds so much depth; we only need to understand what we are seeing. Like body language, art has many interpretations to one single image; you just need to understand the workings behind it.

Continue reading “Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)”

Luke Ryder (of Death in the Holler, by John Bluck)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an alcoholic game warden, drawn into a police murder investigation when a dead gangster is found on a farm’s food plot.


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

I grew up in the Holler, a small wooded valley in Kentucky. There’s lots of woods, some small farms, but mostly beat up houses, shacks where most folks live. It’s pretty country, but the people are nearly all poor. And now, even in the year 2029, you think yur takin’ a step back in time when you go to the Holler. You’ll see the cinder block saloon next to a gravel road by thick woods and a couple of country stores with gas pumps out front. You’ll notice fields of tall weeds and scrawny trees with plenty of space between the small houses.

Folks usually have vegetable gardens, sometimes well-tended, but there’s the feelin’ that if you take a few too many steps, you’ll be walking into a dump, yur feet crunching down on crumbling, rusty cans between the tall islands of grass. On the edges of their properties people throw out garbage. There’s general junk, broken glass, and maybe some old furniture. They don’t have garbage pickup in the Holler. You have to drive your trash bags to the dump, but some folks don’t do it all the time. There’s the occasional rusty car or old, smashed pickup with rotten, flat tires, just sitting there on overgrown lawns. Folks often leave their clunkers next to their gravel driveways or off to the side of their houses when their vehicles stop working.

The first thing I remember when I think back to when I was a little kid was the rough wooden floor in the living room, if you could call it that. I had to be careful not to get splinters stuck in my fingers when I played with my plastic, toy soldiers. It was the biggest room in the clapboard house. I slept on the old, worn couch with my face against the back, ‘cuz it usually was still light in the house when I went to sleep. My eyes burned from the tobacco smoke. My little sister slept in a crib in the kitchen, and Mama and Paw slept in the only bedroom.

We didn’t have many close neighbors. Those that lived closest to us ignored us. Most likely that was because of my mama being an immigrant from Naples, Italy. Her accent made her seem even more foreign. She was a Catholic, but Paw was born in the Holler and was a Baptist. Before I was born he was in the Navy working at an airbase in Italy as an airplane mechanic. My parents met in a bar in Naples.

Dad was a drinker and got kicked outta the Navy ‘cuz of it, according to Mama. My guess is he got her pregnant with me. She really didn’t want to move to the Holler, but Paw had inherited an old house and a few acres after his parents died. He got a job fixing cars and trucks. He didn’t make a hell of a lot of money, and there wasn’t much left after he bought his booze. Mama wasn’t innocent, either. She ended up on pills and died of an overdose. Paw’s liver rotted away. They died when I was in my early twenties. Now, fifteen years later, I have a drinkin’ problem. I guess I got a few bad genes from my parents, but that ain’t a good excuse. I’m fightin’ it. It’s tough, but admitting you got a problem is half the battle.

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

I can’t think of a favorite toy, but my favorite thing was a BB gun my Paw gave me. I used to shoot mostly sparrows with it. I even killed a mouse in the shed oncest. After a while though, I felt sorry because I’d killed a bunch of innocent birds. They were gentle, pretty creatures. I had cut their lives short, and I never forgave myself totally for that. I guess that’s why I eventually became a Kentucky game warden.

My favorite memories are from when I was a little older, in middle school. Me and my best friend, Jim Pike, played hooky from school, and fished in the creek.  Later on, in high school Jim wanted to be a psychologist.  Sort of a funny choice for a kid from the Holler, huh? Well, though he got his college degree in psychology, he ended up as the county sheriff. He couldn’t find a psychologist job. But he told me a few times that studying psychology helped him a bunch when he became a peace officer.

What do you do now?

I’m a game warden. Truth be told,  that wasn’t my first choice. I really wanted to write about the animals of the Holler and Kentucky. You know, the deer, the possums, turkeys, fish. To do that, I wanted to be a public affairs officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

When I was a kid in school I read a lot. Maybe that’s ‘cuz most kids ignored me except for Jim Pike. Anyway, there was this old bus that the county converted into a library on wheels. I got books from it. Actually, you won’t believe it, but I can write a lot better than I can talk. But writing about wildlife didn’t work out. There aren’t many people doing that job, so I did the next best thing. I became a game warden. We have to carry a pistol. Technically, we are law enforcement officers. But mostly we deal with poachers and people fishing without a license.

Continue reading “Luke Ryder (of Death in the Holler, by John Bluck)”

Natasha Bernard (of The Masada Faktor, by Naomi Litvin)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the child of a holocaust survivor. She is here to tell us about life in both the USA and Israel, and about how horrible things that should have been buried in the past refuse to stay dead.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who grew up in America. My identity became meshed into hers as I was deeply affected by her experiences, some of which are manifested in The Masada Faktor. Eventually I became Mother’s caregiver until her death.

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

Favorite toys? That would imply that I had fun as a child? Hmmm. I remember toy guns being my favorites to play with. I fought Nazis with my little brother in war games.

What do you do now?

I follow my gut looking for clues to a mystery that Mother left me with. A mystery with deadly consequences for Israel. I live with past, present, and future adventures that seem to control me in an odd way. I am a writer in the book.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The mystery of The Masada Faktor had taken me to Israel. The case was left for me after Mother’s death and not only is it a hard trail, certain personal issues have arisen that are forcing me to look inside myself. Was I really affected by Mother’s experiences in World War II? Why is it up to me to save Israel? What did I do to deserve this? Well, I am a Jewess and I have a responsibility to fulfill. So I accepted that and got on with it.

Continue reading “Natasha Bernard (of The Masada Faktor, by Naomi Litvin)”

Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the mother of the protagonist. She is here to tell us about life behind the Iron Curtain, about spies – and about a magical ring inherited from the famed John Dee, which she passed to her daughter.


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

Well, I was born in Prague, Czechia, between the two World Wars. It was exquisitely beautiful and yet terrifying at the same time. We lived in a grand old flat in Novy Svet, an old quarter of Prague up near the Castle. From an early age I was steeped in a culture of mystery. I used to love wandering around the old quarters of the city, especially the Jewish Quarter, and reading about old legends like the Prague Golem. There always seemed to be an air of unseen reality behind everyday life. A sense of the occult at work. It was sinister, in a way, and yet there was also a lot of laughter in our lives. That must be where I got my anarchic sense of humor! And my nose for the occult at work in public institutions.

What would you say were your defining memories as a child?

I seem to remember we read a lot, went to the theatre, and like most families in that part of the world we had a log cabin in the  forest where we spent weekends and holidays. You have to remember hardly anybody went abroad on vacation in those days.

My favorite memories are of sitting by the log fire at our cabin and reading fairy stories with my grandmother. It seemed idyllic, until  the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Then my whole reality changed forever. I guess that’s the origin of my contradictory personality. And why I became a spy. I witnessed Nazism and then Communism in only a few years. The point of all this, for me, as I say, is to understand the occult aspects of power and institutions.

Even in your life today?

Well, on the face of it I’m now just a retired, respectable grandmother, living in England, where my daughter Sylvia was born, and being a granny to my grandson Rusty. He’s quite a character. Takes after me in many ways! My daughter was pretty angry with me for a long time, on account of my spying career, which took me away from England a lot, but of course I couldn’t tell her about it.

Sometimes people tell me I’m just being paranoid, but I think I know better. It’s hard for me now, though, in a way, having to sit on the sidelines and just watch it all playing out, all over again. This time it isn’t a sudden cataclysmic event. It’s a slow creep. I could see my daughter Sylvia being sucked into this false reality of today and I meant to help her by giving her the ring, but in the end it just made her life more complicated.

So what, then, is this ‘wizard ring’? And what’s playing out all over again?

It was a gift from a dear friend of mine called Stanislav, who found it in Prague and I gave it to my daughter Sylvia. I meant it to enhance her consciousness. It was made in the Prague workshop of the famous English alchemist, John Dee, who lived in Czechia for a few years with his family. I completely underestimated its magic powers, as it turned out. But then perhaps I also underestimated my daughter. Parents often do. What’s playing out all over again? The colonization of our minds with propaganda. Misdirection about what’s really going on. The dark arts of money.

Continue reading “Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)”

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)”

Marcus Corvinus (of his eponymous series, by David Wishart)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a Roman nobleman, scion to the patrician Valerii Messallae family. Living in the times of the emperor Tiberius, he was privy to some of the most interesting events of the early Caesars, from a unique behind-the-scenes view. He’s here to tell us about his life and his times.


Tell us a little about your family and early life.

Gods! How much time have we got here?

I was born in Rome, where the family’s been a fixture practically ever since Romulus ploughed his first furrow eight hundred years back. Father Marcus Valerius Messalla Messalinus (yeah, all four of them; we Roman aristos don’t skimp when it comes to names), mother Vipsania (just the one name this time. Women have it easy). Paternal grandfather another Marcus Valerius Corvinus. That last is relevant. More about Grampa Marcus later.

Mother and Dad were different as chalk and cheese, which was one reason why they divorced around the time of my fourteenth birthday, just after the old Emperor Augustus popped his clogs. Became a god. Whatever. No coincidence there, mind, and not the only reason. As you might guess from her name, Mother was the daughter of Vipsanius Agrippa, the old guy’s erstwhile deputy and hoped-for successor, so contracted marriages at our end of the social scale being what they are it had been a pretty shrewd move originally on Dad’s part, politically speaking. And Dad was nothing if not political. Only it bombed. Agrippa pegged out not long afterwards, and by the time Augustus died (was promoted) where the succession – and political power – was concerned the only game in town was Tiberius, aka the Wart, son of his wife Livia by an earlier marriage (are you following all this? Questions later). No coincidence there, either, far from it. Believe me, I know; as things turned out, sussing out the details of that little bit of political engineering on the bitch’s part nearly had me in an urn before I hit twenty.

Anyway…

Okay, you know how things go for a kid with my background, from their mid-teens on. It’s pretty much standard, and mapped out from day one: a couple of years’ featherbedding with a legion so’s you’ll know, when the time comes, exactly how to beat the hell out of the poor buggers beyond the frontiers who are benighted enough to want to keep it that way, or stupid enough, if they’re inside them, to want out; followed by a strictly-regulated move up the political ladder ending in a consulship and the parking of your well-upholstered middle-aged bum on one of the benches in the senate and a lifelong place on the political gravy train. That, of course, was what Dad – being Dad – had planned for me originally. Only – equally of course, and fortunately – it didn’t work out that way. Thanks, primarily, to Grampa Marcus.

Oh, sure, he’d come up through the system himself. In spades. Unlike Dad, though, he was no political arse-licker: believe me – and again I know what I’m talking about here, having had personal experience of three of the buggers so far, plus Bitch Livia, who counts as an honorary fourth – it takes guts to tell a ruling emperor to take a hike. Which seemingly, on one memorable occasion, he did. Even as a know-nothing kid I had a lot of time for Grampa Marcus.

He had a lot of time for me, too, fortunately; surprisingly so, considering that, not to put too fine a point on it, I was an over-bred, snotty-nosed, spoilt brat, but there you are, that was Grampa Marcus for you. I can see now in retrospect (he died when I was eight) that we had a lot in common, character-wise, and he must’ve seen the same. Whatever his reasons were (although I have a sneaking suspicion they included a less-than-perfect liking for how Dad was turning out) he left me enough in his will – property and cash – to make me financially independent when I came of age. Which meant that when at fifteen I told Dad in no uncertain terms where he could stick his plans for my future the threat of being disinherited wasn’t something I needed to worry about.

Not that at fifteen I wasn’t still essentially an over-bred spoilt brat, mind (at least I’d got past the snotty-nosed stage). But then that’s par for the course: what upper-class Roman fifteen-year-old isn’t?

Enough about family. That side of it, anyway. And at least me and Dad made it up in the end, before he died, with allowances made on both sides. I’m really glad about that. You don’t want bad blood in a family, you really don’t.

So how did you get into sleuthing?

That was Perilla’s doing. My wife. Or she is now, at least, and has been for – gods! – the past twenty-five years. Her stepfather was Ovidius Naso, the poet exiled by Augustus and never pardoned. Grampa Marcus had been his principal patron, which meant that when Ovid died and Perilla wanted his bones brought back for burial she gave me the job of arranging it. Not Dad as his eldest son and head of the family, mark you; me. Which, it turned out, was my Uncle Cotta’s doing: elbow-in-the-ribs, nudge-nudge wink-wink stuff, which was typical Cotta. A nice enough guy in his opportunistic, duplicitous way, and he meant well, but the bugger almost got me killed.  Like I said, I was just an over-bred spoilt kid of nineteen at the time, party-party, smashed out of my skull for thirty days in the month. But that was a lady you couldn’t say no to – think Amazon minus the battle-axe but with added attitude – so I didn’t. And that was how it started.

She’s not as bad as she sounds, mind, Perilla. Or not really. Not when you get to know her.

Continue reading “Marcus Corvinus (of his eponymous series, by David Wishart)”

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)”

Nick Cisco (of Father Divine’s Bikes, by Steve Bassett)

38730511Dear readers, tonight with me is a police lieutenant from 1945 Newark, New Jersey. He’s here to tell us of the dark underbelly of a city that boomed during World War II but finds itself unable to cope with the peace that brings joblessness, despair and crime.


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

I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. The sole child of first generation Italian immigrants, Angelo and Angelica Cisco. My father was a stevedore working the Port Newark docks, having turned his back on the easy money offered by an Italian mafia that began to strangle the city.

Like most immigrants’ kids, I got to know the city’s streets, empty lots and back alleys very well. They were our playground.

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

I love the street sports, stickball and stoopball were my favorites. And they were cheap, we could all come up with the loose change needed for pink high-bouncers which were really the inner lining of tennis balls. You could find broom handles anywhere. I had a strong left arm and could really wing a bouncer off a stoop. I hardly ever lost a stoopball game.

What do you do now?

I’m a newly minted homicide detective moving over from the burglary detail during a shake-up of the police department by Mayor Vincent Murphy. I’m a cop, not by choice, but by circumstances including my marriage to Constance Margotta. This killed any chance to pursue the career I really wanted, art critic or curator. Continue reading “Nick Cisco (of Father Divine’s Bikes, by Steve Bassett)”

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑