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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Police

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)”

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)”

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