Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Leprechaun's Lament by Wayne Zurl (Author Interview / Book Review)

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes back Wayne Zurl, author of A Leprechaun's Lament: A Sam Jenkins Mystery!







Author Interview


Welcome back to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Wayne! 


Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara. 

Fifteen (15) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A Murder In Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and Reenacting A Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl’s first full-length novel, A New Prospect, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A Leprechaun's Lament and Heroes & Lovers

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series go to www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place. 


How long have you been a writer?

This gets a complicated answer: All my life in one form or another. In the Army I wrote after action reports and other narratives to make the senior officers happy and keep them from thinking my merry men and I weren’t goofing off. A police department revolves around paperwork and I did more than my share for twenty years. That, of course, was all non-fiction, although several defense attorneys said my prosecution worksheets were pure fantasy. After I retired, I volunteered at a Tennessee state park writing publicity for their living history program. From that job came magazine articles. In ten years, I had twenty-six published. When I could no longer think up new and thrilling things to say about the French & Indian War in Tennessee, I decided to try fiction. 

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

I’m collecting three pensions. Beating the system and living longer than my former employers would like enables me to putter around as a writer and still eat regularly. 

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

Let’s look at why I chose to write fiction. I had read Robert B. Parker’s Night Passage, the first in his Jesse Stone series. I liked the premise, ex-big town detective gets a job as a small town police chief. Stone left Los Angeles for Paradise, Massachusetts. I’d been a cop and Parker wasn’t. I wondered, how hard could it be? I’d write a series with a retired New York detective getting a job in east Tennessee. I could cover two avenues under the write what you know theory. 

Please give a brief description/storyline about A Leprechaun's Lament.

I think the jacket summary tells the whole story. A stipulation of the Patriot Act gave Chief Sam Jenkins an easy job; investigate all the civilians working for the Prospect Police Department. But what looked like a routine chore to the gritty ex-New York detective, turned into a nightmare. Preliminary inquiries reveal a middle-aged employee didn’t exist prior to 1975. Murray McGuire spent the second half of his life repairing office equipment for the small city of Prospect, Tennessee, but the police can’t find a trace of the first half. After uncovering nothing but dead ends during the background investigation and frustrations running at flood level, Jenkins finds his subject lying face down in a Smoky Mountain creek bed—murdered assassination-style. By calling in favors from old friends and new acquaintances, the chief enlists help from a local FBI agent, a deputy director of the CIA, British intelligence services, and the Irish Garda to learn the man’s real identity and uncover the trail of an international killer seeking revenge in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

What was the inspiration for this story?

The “Murray McGuire” story represents the most bizarre and frustrating case I supervised in twenty years. Those of us who worked on it found it difficult to believe while we were living it. That’s one reason I didn’t make this my first book. I wondered if a publisher/editor would buy it. But it’s basically true; I only changed the names to protect the guilty. And I invented the beautiful Irish girl. Sam Jenkins likes to have good-looking women in his stories. 

How did it feel to have your first book published?

It was a long haul getting there. I began writing A New Prospect in the summer of 2006. It was published in January 2011. When I held my free author’s copy in my hand, I loved it. I had believed in the book and through many queries and rejections, I never gave up. I felt like a prize fighter with a broken nose and a half dozen cuts. But I won. 

Do you write books for a specific genre?

So far all my novels and novelettes are police mysteries. But I wrote a cross genre thing for a short story contest once. It’s called Another Prospect and is a sci-fi - time travel - western. I went way over the word limit so, I never submitted it, but people who reviewed it on an on-line writer’s workshop liked it. I’d like to try a western novel sometime. 

What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

Right now I read mysteries and historical fiction. I’ve read everything from Robert B. Parker and like his minimalist style, snappy dialogue, and how his heroes don’t take themselves too seriously. I like that other guy from Long Island who writes mysteries, too, Nelson DeMille. His Detective John Corey novels are chock full of quality smart-ass dialogue. Sometimes I wonder how he can keep coming up with such good fresh stuff. I’ve just discovered Scottish writer Philip Kerr and his Bernard G√ľnter books. Bernie is like the pre-WW2 German Philip Marlowe. And then there’s James Lee Burke. His Dave Robicheaux police novels are exquisite. Burke can describe people, places, and events like few others; his stuff is poetic. But his books are dark, full of damaged individuals—train wrecks chugging down the tracks in south Louisiana looking for places and people to devastate. I’m amazed at how his mind works. Bernard Cornwell satisfies my need for historical fiction. Few people can write action scenes like him. I generally need a drink after a few pages of his battles. 

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

I write everything on a legal pad before transposing it to a Word document. I sit in a wingback chair in our living room. 

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

Most all of my stories start with an idea based on a case I investigated, supervised, or just knew a lot about. Often, I composite two or more incidents and several vignettes to make one story. Then I add the requisite conflict and tension because true crime is rarely as complete or satisfying as is necessary for good fiction. 

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

For a guy who lived his life in a military or para-military organization, you’d think I’d be more structured. I’m not. I don’t devote an assigned number of hours a day to writing or revising. When an inspiration hits me, I go with it, sometimes forsaking other necessities. At my age, if I don’t get the good ideas on paper, I may forget them. 

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

The most gratifying aspect of writing is character development. Plots are plots. They’re either simple and straightforward or complex and convoluted. I tend to like the former, but really don’t care where a story leads me plot-wise. But I need to create quirky characters and write with lots of realistic dialogue. Before I begin, I hold a casting call and assign real faces to the fictional characters. Some are actors, some real people from my life. That allows me to write their dialogue with the unique voice and delivery I hear from memory. The tough part is putting a message into the story. I tend to show my dislike for corrupt politicians, selfish rich people, and bullies. I need to mix up my themes a little. 

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

I’ve been married for almost forty-eight years. For as long as I can remember, when my grandmother was alive, she called my wife and me gypsies because we always travelled. But we don’t take common bus tours or cruises on the “love boat.” Our travel is more off beat; we’ve never lounged on a beach with a good book. With travel comes photography. I learned to take pictures by photographing dead bodies and crime scenes. After that, landscapes and wildlife are easy. I do my hunting with a camera. 

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

An award winning author helped me get my head around the rejections from agents and publishers. The first good advice he gave was, “Sometimes tenacity trumps talent.” When I bitched to myself about seeing so many famous published authors who didn’t write very good literature, I’d repeat those words. The second thing was, “Agents don’t care if you’re good, they want you to be marketable.” That helped when one agent told me, “Your protagonist, a sixty-year-old ex-New York cop working as a chief in Tennessee isn’t trendy. Why not make him a young vampire private eye in Orange County?” I stopped looking for an agent after that and wrote to any traditional publisher who would accept submissions directly from an author. 

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

I absolutely roll over when I receive a favorable, intelligently written review where the reader mentions the points I consider most important. I say, “Yes, you saw it, you got it. You are not a mindless twit hoping for Sam Jenkins to turn into a werewolf.” I’d rather not insult a reader’s intelligence by gratuitously stretching their suspension of disbelief. I like to present situations that are real or could easily happen and try to make them interesting and/or exciting. 

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

I do the Facebook / Twitter thing. It allows fans to communicate and allows me to answer everyone’s questions or make a cross comment. FB allows members to send personal messages for those who would rather communicate in private. I understand and respect that. I have no problem with getting emails about anything. 

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

Let’s jump back to question 5 for the explanation of the inspiration for the book and then I’ll say besides the Irish woman, getting an FBI evidence response team to process Sam’s incident scene was also pure imagination based solely on his relationship with Agent Ralph Oliveri. Other than that, I still remember most of the actual dialogue between “Murray” and me. All the extremely strange things that surrounded that person’s life were real. 

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

I guess Robert B. Parker has been the most influential because I like his style and can write like him. Am I as good? That’s a subjective thing someone has to decide for him/herself. I’m in awe of James Lee Burke, but doubt I could duplicate his style because my mind doesn’t work like his. I’m not remotely poetic. 

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Success is a relative thing At one time, I thought only publishing with one of the “big 6” and getting interviewed by Ann Curry on the Today Show would mark success as a writer. But since then, Ann has gotten dumped (I can’t imagine why) and I’ve gotten more of a grasp of the real publishing world. Now I look at success this way: When I raised my hand and swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, I was inducted into the Army. I’d yet to fire a shot in anger, but I could still call myself a soldier. When I raised that same right hand and took an oath of office to enforce the laws of the state of New York, I hadn’t yet arrested one person, but I could call myself a cop. I’ve had eighteen pieces of fiction published by other people—none with the “big 6,” but all with professional publishers. I think I deserve to get business cards printed calling myself a mystery writer. I’m as successful as an actor who gets a TV series on cable rather than a network. 

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

I’m almost finished with the third round of revisions on a thing I call Pigeon River Blues. It’s a full-length novel where Sam Jenkins makes his first and probably only foray into the world of country and western music. 

Here’s what I’d like to see on the book jacket: Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie. The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star. C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values. The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates. Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate. During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.” 


Kathleen, Thanks for inviting me for a second visit to your blog and another review. Happy New Year to you and all your fans. 


Thank you Wayne for coming back to Jersey Girl Book Reviews for another visit. Thank you for sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us. Happy New Year to you and your family!



About The Author

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara. 

Fifteen (15) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A Murder In Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and Reenacting A Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl’s first full-length novel, A New Prospect, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A Leprechaun's Lament and Heroes & Lovers

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series go to www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place. 





A Leprechaun's Lament - Book Trailer




Book Review



A Leprechaun's Lament by Wayne Zurl
Publisher: Iconic Publishing
Publication Date: March 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover / Paperback - 234 pages / Kindle - 994 KB / Nook - 261 KB
ISBN: 1467509841 
ASIN: B007VTVFI4
Genre: Mystery


BUY THE BOOK: A Leprechaun's Lament


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review, and for hosting a virtual book event on my book review blog site.


Book Description:

A stipulation of the Patriot Act gave Chief Sam Jenkins an easy job; investigate all the civilians working for the Prospect Police Department. But what looked like a routine chore to the gritty ex-New York detective, turned into a nightmare. Preliminary inquiries reveal a middle-aged employee didn't exist prior to 1975. Murray McGuire spent the second half of his life repairing office equipment for the small city of Prospect, Tennessee, but the police can't find a trace of the first half. After uncovering nothing but dead ends during the background investigation and frustrations running at flood level, Jenkins finds his subject lying face down in a Smoky Mountain creek bed-murdered assassination-style. By calling in favors from old friends and new acquaintances, the chief enlists help from a local FBI agent, a deputy director of the CIA, British intelligence services, and the Irish Garda to learn the man's real identity and uncover the trail of an international killer seeking revenge in the Great Smoky Mountains


Book Excerpt:


I think about the little guy often. Murray McGuire looked like a leprechaun. He played darts like a pub champion and drank stout like a soccer star. If you worked for the city of Prospect and found problems with a piece of office equipment, Murray would work tirelessly to remedy your troubles.

But after I interviewed him for thirty minutes, I could have cheerfully strangled the little bastard.

Thanks to Murray, I’ll always look over my shoulder with a modicum of trepidation. I have dreams about a beautiful redhead I could do without. And I remember an incident best forgotten every time I see a turkey buzzard.

For days I thought of Murray as the man who didn’t exist.


My Book Review:

Sixty-year old retired New York City Police Detective Sam Jenkins and wife Katherine pack up their belongings and Scottish terrier Bitsey, and relocate to the Great Smoky Mountain small town of Prospect, Tennessee. But Sam's retirement is short lived when he becomes the town's next Chief of Police. With three months under his belt as Prospect's Chief of Police, Sam's police department is approved a grant under the Patriot Act to conduct background investigations on all civilian employees who work with the police department. But the routine background investigations on the nine current civilian employees turns into a complicated mystery when one of the civilians, Murray "Typewriter Murray" McGuire, the middle-aged Irish office equipment repairman for the past twenty-eight years, has no past! When Sam and his staff investigate Murray's background, they find that there is no trace of the man before 1975, the man simply doesn't exist! And Murray isn't very forthcoming or helpful in supplying his background information, when he is confronted with his lack of past history, he provides vague responses which leads Sam to wonder what is the man hiding? All hell breaks loose and drama ensues when Murray turns up murdered and Sam finds Murray's British passport, so he calls in some help from the FBI, and the murder investigation turns into an international intrigue when the CIA, British Intelligence and the Irish Garda get involved! Who would want a little Irishman like Murray McGuire dead? Come along with Sam as he embarks on an intriguing international murder mystery investigation adventure!

A Leprechaun's Lament is the second Sam Jenkins Mystery series book that I have read, and once again author Wayne Zurl has been able to grab my attention and draw me into another intriguing mystery story featuring the witty and sarcastic Sam Jenkins. Author Wayne Zurl weaves an intriguing tale of murder and international intrigue told in the first person narrative by Prospect Police Chief Sam Jenkins, who takes the reader along for the ride on his latest investigative adventure. The author's writing style engages the reader with a story that has a mixture of humor, intrigue, drama, and romance; and enough suspenseful twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the surprising ending.

With rich details and descriptions of the Great Smoky Mountains setting in east Tennessee and the international intrigue of Ireland and Great Britain; to Sam's brash personality, witty and sarcastic humor and banter, and flirtatious ways with the ladies; to the quirky Prospect townsfolk and their equally quirky local dialect; A Leprechaun's Lament is one heck of an entertaining murder mystery adventure that you won't be able to put down!

Author Wayne Zurl utilizes his prior police experience and past case investigations to weave an intriguing Sam Jenkins Mystery series that crime/mystery fans will thoroughly enjoy!


RATING: 5 STARS *****


2 comments:

  1. Hi Kathleen,
    Thanks for inviting me back for a second visit to your blog, and thanks for another 5 star review.
    I wish you and all your followers a happy and healthy new year. All the best, Wayne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Wayne! Thank you for the opportunity to host another virtual book event. I look forward to reading more Sam Jenkins mysteries! :)

      Happy New Year!

      Delete