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Monday, December 10, 2012

Deadly Plunge by Greg Messel (Author Interview / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes back Greg Messel, author of Deadly Plunge!

Author Interview

Welcome back to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Greg!

How long have you been a writer?

In a sense all of my life. I wrote for my high school newspaper and was the sports editor during my senior year. I also had a part time job as a stringer for the local newspaper in the Bay Area to support myself during high school and college. I covered sports, news events and even wrote movie reviews. Later in my life I fulfilled my dream of being a newspaperman. I worked for a daily newspaper in Wyoming and became the news editor. I did that for several years. I've always loved writing and feel it came naturally to me. Newspaper reporting is different than writing novels for sure but I've surprised myself in making the transition. 

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

I retired from the corporate world and now spend full time writing my novels.

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

Besides the items I mentioned earlier in my life, I decided to write a memoir of my life and of my wife's. The process of writing those memoirs, which I wrote in the style of novels, seemed to prime the pump and get me launched into being a novelist. It took a while to feel my way in writing my first book Sunbreaks. I have a real soft spot for that book even though I don't think it is my best novel. After Sunbreaks I kept going. I've now published five novels and I am working diligently on my sixth which should be out next year.

Please give a brief description/storyline about Deadly Plunge.

My protagonist is Sam Slater, a former San Francisco Seals baseball player turned private investigator. Sam is hired to find out why a rich, politically-well connected San Francisco man, Arthur Bolender, suddenly ended his life by plunging off of the Golden Gate Bridge. All those who know Arthur say unequivocally that he did not commit suicide. However, Bolender's body was found floating in San Francisco Bay and his car was abandoned in the traffic lane of the bridge. Meanwhile, Sam's romance with glamorous TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan continues to blossom and deepen. She is now his secret fiancee-secret because the airline has rules that stewardess must be young and single women. Amelia also eagerly helps Sam solve his cases when she's in town. The key to unraveling the mystery seems to be a strange old Victorian-style house. Bolender's widow, a rich, seductive socialite named Maggie Bolender, was not even aware that her husband owned the house. Sam and Amelia are plunged into a world of political secrets and encounter some dangerous people. The creeps who are using this mysterious house will do anything to protect their secrets including kidnapping Amelia.

What was the inspiration for this story?

San Francisco in the 1950s is a rich and colorful place. It's an interesting time just before the world really changes. This summer I tested my wife's patience by driving all over San Francisco refreshing my memories about locales in city that I wanted to use in Deadly Plunge. I was walking around by Coit Tower, I drove up to the huge, gorgeous houses in Pacific Heights where Maggie Bolender lives, and drove around the Mission District where Sam and Amelia live. I remember what some of the areas used to be like but I use research to fill in the blanks. I also followed the walking paths near the Palace of Fine Arts where one of the murders occurred.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

It was amazing to see the complete trip from my imagination to holding a book in my hand. I'll never forget how it felt to walk into a Borders store or a Costco and see large banners about my books. Then I signed copies for readers. My book signing in Los Angeles at the UCLA campus for the LA Festival of Books was quite a rush.

Do you write books for a specific genre?

My first three books were love stories--not romance novels--but stories about finding and losing love. I still think one of the most interesting aspects of the human experience is how people find one another and fall in love. In all three of those books, an overarching theme is the healing power of love. I had been searching for a group of characters that I could use in a continuing series of mystery or detective books. I think I have found them and hope readers agree.

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

I do like mysteries. I've always been a fan of Sue Grafton's books and of P.D.James. I like that type of mystery and I don't like some of the harsh, violent serial killer type books. I respect those authors and have some friends who write those books. It's just not what I prefer. I do like gritty police novels like Michael Connelly writes.

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

I have a desk that looks out a second story window on the street in front of my condo building. I love to sit there, especially on rainy fall or winter days in Seattle, watching the rainy scene, listening to music and writing my novels.

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

I do think a lot about my story before I begin writing. My wife is amazed that I sit down and just start typing chapters. But what she doesn't know is that I've been thinking about those chapters for weeks. Finally it's ready to come tumbling out of you and you actually become anxious to write it down before it goes away. Especially with mysteries I spend a lot of time contemplating different twists and turns. Sometimes if I get stuck, I find it helps to back off for a couple of days and let it develop a little more in your mind.

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

I have made notes in the middle of the night when I get an idea. I also like to run and I've had some great ideas for scenes and dialogue that hit me while I'm running. Generally, I try to spend the afternoon writing. Once I get rolling I can usually write a chapter in a couple of days -- as far as the first draft. Then after the first draft I spend a lot of time, tweaking things, polishing dialogue and making sure it flows well.

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

I like to write dialogue but I also struggle a lot to make sure it is realistic and well written. That is not easy. I also have to adjust the dialogue in my mysteries to things people would say and not say in the 1950s. I love the historical research of the time and place that I do to try to provide an interesting backdrop for the story. Atmospherics are very important to me to catch the flavor of San Francisco in the 1950s.

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

I live on Puget Sound just north of downtown Seattle. I love to run each day along the waterfront. I also like to take walks on the beach with my wife. I'm an avid movie fan and go to at least one a week. My goal is to always see everything that will be nominated for an Oscar.

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

I went to a writers conference and got the advice to let your writing be more organic and spontaneous. Meaning just let the story come out of you. I love that part of writing and it is a real thrill when your story takes a turn that you had not anticipated. That happened to me in Deadly Plunge. I thought I was done but then I got an idea. I rewrote the entire last third of the book to include the plot about the stalker who is pursuing Amelia. I think that really strengthens the story.

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

When you finish your book and you are really happy with the results. It's somewhat nerve racking waiting to see if readers agree. I'm getting more confident about my writing that I'm not so fragile in that area.

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans? 

I'm very accessible on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and my blog. I get notes from all over the world which is wonderful.

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

My earlier books- Sunbreaks, Expiation and The Illusion of Certainty -definitely are based on some real life experiences. Last of the Seals and Deadly Plunge spring from my memories of growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was a child in the late 1950s there and my parents lived in the same world as Sam and Amelia and the other characters in my mysteries.

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

I really like the consistently good writings of Michael Connelly, Pat Conroy and Sue Grafton. I got to meet Michael Connelly, Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton at the Los Angeles Festival of Books when I was there signing copies of Sunbreaks. It was a huge thrill.

What is your definition of success as a writer?

I would like to have my writing sustain itself. Sales are important. I think anyone who says otherwise, unless you are some curmudgeon like Cormac McCarthy (whom I love by the way), is not being truthful. Sales not only will get you money but also show that people are buying your book. It is a tremendous pay back when I get notes or tweets from readers who tell you that they really enjoyed your book. It is a lot of work to write a book, design it, market it and it is wonderful when it is well received.

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

I'm writing San Francisco Secrets which will be the third book in the mystery series set in San Francisco in the 1950s. It is a continuation of the story which began in Last of the Seals and Deadly Plunge but it is a stand-alone novel. In San Francisco Secrets Sam Slater is trying to track down a blackmailer who is trying to extort money from a prominent doctor in San Francisco. Meanwhile, there are some surprising developments in his relationship with TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan. She is now is a stewardess on international routes and we follow her adventures in New York City, London, Paris and Rome. I'm very excited about the story and look forward to finishing it. I have quite a few plots lines to resolve but that's the fun part.

Thank you Greg for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit of yourself and your writing career with us! 

About The Author

Greg Messel has written five novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel Sunbreaks in 2009, followed by Expiation in 2010 and The Illusion of Certainty in 2011. Last of the Seals is the first in a series of mysteries which are set in 1957 San Francisco. The second book in the series Deadly Plunge was published in October 2012.

Greg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist while working for a daily newspaper in Wyoming. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol.

Greg Messel ~ Deadly Plunge ~ Virtual Book Tour Page ~ Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Deadly Plunge - Trailer

Book Review

Deadly Plunge by Greg Messel
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Publication Date: October 8, 2012
Format: Paperback - 406 pages / Kindle - 4321 KB / Nook - 4 MB
ISBN: 0985485922
Genre: Mystery

BUY THE BOOK: Deadly Plunge

BUY THE SERIES: Sam Slater Mystery Series
Last of the Seals - Book 1
Deadly Plunge - Book 2
San Francisco Secrets - Book 3 *coming soon!*

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

Former baseball player and newly-minted private investigator, Sam Slater is hired to find out why a rich, politically-well connected San Francisco man, Arthur Bolender, suddenly ended his life by plunging off of the Golden Gate Bridge. All those who know Arthur say unequivocally that he did not commit suicide. However, Bolender’s body was found floating in San Francisco Bay and his car was abandoned in the traffic lane of the bridge. Meanwhile, Sam’s romance with glamorous TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan continues to blossom and deepen. She is now his secret fiancee. Amelia also eagerly helps Sam solve his cases when she’s in town. The key to unraveling the mystery seems to be a strange old Victorian-style house. Bolender’s widow, a rich, seductive socialite named Maggie Bolender, was not even aware that her husband owned the house. What is really going on behind the doors of the mysterious house? Finding the answers will plunge Sam and Amelia into a dangerous world of political intrigue in the exciting sequel to Last of the Seals.

Book Excerpt:

Amelia shot him a concerned look as he retrieved the gun, but she said nothing. Sam knew that the gun made Amelia nervous. However, by the time this day was over, Amelia would be very grateful that Sam was armed while they were in the mysterious house.

Upon entering, they paused and listened. It was as silent as a crypt. Apparently they were alone in the house. The creaky floors and staircase would have the same effect as ringing an alarm bell if anyone else entered the house.

Sam and Amelia began ascending the stairs. They briefly stopped outside the bedroom door on the third floor and peeked inside. There was no one there and the Victorian bedroom looked just as it had on their earlier visit.

“Let’s go up to the top floor and come back here afterwards,” Sam suggested.

“I agree,” Amelia responded. “I’d like to take a look at what’s inside that roll top desk.”

Sam motioned with a nod of his head and they climbed the stairs to the top floor. They used the skeleton key, which was still hidden on the upper frame of the door. Sam and Amelia proceeded cautiously through the door and again found the room intact and dark.

Amelia clicked on the overhead light and they began exploring the room. Sam started by looking over the tape recorder that was used to tap the phone.

Meanwhile, Amelia began flipping through various folders full of papers scattered on the large working table in the big open room. Sam noticed another phone in the corner across the room on a small end table.

Sam jotted down the number of the phone hooked to the tape recorder. It was UNderhill 5-8947. He walked to the corner phone and saw that the dial was labeled with a different phone number—UNderhill 5-6709. Two different lines.

“Amelia,” Sam said quietly, “Go stand by the phone hooked to the tape recorder. Answer the phone but don’t say anything.”

“Okay,” she responded, moving towards the large table with the phone and recorder. Sam looked at his notepad and dialed UN5-8947. The phone by Amelia began to ring. Sam nodded at her. As soon as she picked up the receiver, the tape machine came to life to record the phone call.

Sam looked quizzically at Amelia. “Anything on that phone gets automatically recorded. This other phone can be more private.”

"What does that mean?" Amelia asked.

“I don’t know but suddenly I’m dying to know what’s on that tape reel,” Sam responded. There was a new, unused tape still in a box near the tape machine. Sam carefully removed the tape on the machine and replaced it with the new tape. He then put the tape with a record of the phone calls in the flight bag.

Amelia resumed shuffling the papers on the desk while Sam walked to the large rolling board and began studying the documents pinned up under the large title “Operation Valkyrie.”

“Sam,” Amelia said in a barely audible voice, “take a look at these.”

Amelia began to walk him through the papers she had discovered. “These are the diplomatic memos. These papers were sent from Moscow to the Russian Consulate here in San Francisco. These have got to be secret documents and they ended up in this house,” Amelia said in a puzzled tone.

“Let’s throw those in the bag. We need to take a closer look at them. I’m a little spooked looking around up here. I feel like someone is going to come in or pop out of the closet at any minute.”

“I do too,” Amelia confided. “This will give us plenty to digest. Let’s go down to take a look at that desk and then get out of here.”

“I agree,” Sam said. They moved towards the door and clicked off the light.

“This gets stranger all of the time,” Amelia said as they descended the stairs towards the bedroom. “I still think it’s best that no one knows you and I are snooping around in here yet. Once, they know we’re watching them, they’ll start hiding things. We’ll never find out what’s going on here.”

“You’re right. We need to make sure we don’t tip our hand yet. I wonder when they come here…and who ‘they’ is?” Sam said.

Amelia raised the cover on the roll-top desk and began to look over the contents. Sam walked slowly towards the hallway. There was a closet in the hall and Sam wanted to see what was in there.

“Look, Sam, another tape,” Amelia said holding it aloft. “It looks like another one from the tape machine upstairs. It’s labeled ‘November, 1957 to January, 1958.”

“Good work. Put it in the bag,” Sam said with a smile. He then turned to head for the hall closet. Sam slowly pulled open the closet door. Inside were a few office supplies. It was mostly empty.

Just as Sam began to open a box in the closet he heard a sound down below. He froze. There were footsteps below and voices. The stairs began to creak. Someone was coming.

Sam quickly stuck his head in the bedroom door. “Amelia, someone’s coming! Hide!” he whispered. “Quick!”

Amelia looked panicked. She jitter-bugged in place for a moment, then quickly removed her high heels, grabbed the flight bag and slid under the big Victorian bed. Sam rushed to the closet and closed the door as the creaking on the staircase grew louder.

Sam and Amelia held their breath. It sounded like two men were now on the landing on the third floor, chatting as they entered the bedroom.

It was filthy under the bed. Amelia stirred up an accumulation of dust bunnies as she slid under the bed. Dust was swirling all around her. To her side was the flight bag and she clutched her shoes to her chest. She tried to not breathe for two reasons.

She didn’t want to make a sound but she was also fighting off a sneeze generated by the flying lint and dust under the bed. Amelia pinched her nose and tried holding her breath.

“What do we need to do in here?” one of the men asked.

“We need to print some posters for the rally tonight. You and I are supposed to hand them out at the Cow Palace as the union people go into their conference.”

“Says who?”

“Lt. Colonel Stephen McKinnon, that’s who,” the one man said mockingly.

“McKinnon thinks we’re all in the Marines and he’s our commander. Who put him in charge?”

“No one, but since Arthur’s plunge off of the bridge, McKinnon’s the boss,” the man said.

The second man walked towards the nightstand and picked up Maggie’s picture. “How did an old geezer like Arthur get a beautiful dame like this?” he said admiring the picture.

“Rich boys can afford nice toys,” his partner said sarcastically.

Amelia could no longer hold her breathe and tried to gently take in some air. It only made the sneeze she was fighting off grow more urgent.

“What do you think really happened to Arthur? Do you think he really killed himself?”

Just then there was a noise under the bed. Amelia could no longer stop it. She did the best she could to suppress the sneeze. The two men stopped talking and looked at one another.

Amelia was really frightened now. The men were completely silent and listening intently. Amelia again tried holding her breathe and closed her eyes. Suddenly she felt a hand around each of her ankles and with a sudden whoosh, she was pulled out from under the bed across the hardwood floor.

To Amelia’s horror she was laying in the middle of the floor staring up at the two men.

“Well, look what we found. You look like you’d be a lot more fun on top of the bed instead of under it,” one of the men said. He then grabbed Amelia and threw her roughly onto the bed as she let out a yelp.

“Hold her down,” the man instructed as he moved towards the bed and the struggling Amelia.

My Book Review:

In Deadly Plunge, former baseball player turned private investigator Sam Slater is back with a new case to investigate. Sam and his TWA stewardess / girlfriend Amelia Ryan are hired by the widow of Arthur Bolender, a wealthy and politically connected San Francisco man, to find out why he plunged to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Set in 1958 San Francisco and told in the third person narrative, author Greg Messel once again weaves another tale of romance, mystery and suspense, with a twist of political and international intrigue added into the mix. As Sam and Amelia investigate the questionable death of Mr. Bolender, they come across a secret old Victorian-style house that he owned, where clandestine activities occurred and leads them into a dangerous world of political and international intrigue. Their discovery causes serious complications that could have deadly results. And if that isn't enough to whet your appetite, Sam and Amelia's relationship has blossomed into a secret engagement. Can Sam and Amelia solve the mystery of Arthur Bolender's deadly plunge? Will Sam and Amelia survive the international danger from this investigation?

Rich in detail and vivid descriptions of authentic 1958 Cold War political and international time period and San Francsico setting; with a cast of characters who are interesting and draw the reader into their lives; and a riveting storyline that has intrigue, suspense, twist and turns, and a steamy romance; Deadly Plunge will captivate your imagination and keep you guessing what will happen next. I really enjoy the author's style of writing, he engages the reader with his detailed descriptive writing, and weaves a gripping story that has a nice balance of mystery and romance that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Deadly Plunge is the second book in the Sam Slater Mystery Series, but can be read as a stand alone story. The author does reference characters and storyline plots from Last of the Seals, the first book in the series in the second book, but he interweaves them so smoothly that the reader won't get lost or feel like they have missed anything. However, I would recommend that you follow the sequence of the books in the series, because once you have been drawn into Sam Slater's latest investigative adventures, you will be hooked and want to follow him onto his next adventure!


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