Today’s guest on the Murder We Write blog tour is mystery writer W.S. (Wendy) Gager, author of the Mitch Malone mystery series. I had the pleasure of being on hand when Mitch interviewed my protagonist, Guy Mallon, on Wendy’s blogsite, November 26, the second day of this tour. Guy enjoyed being interviewed by Mitch, and I enjoyed getting to know Wendy at that time. Now we’ll all get to know her—and Mitch Malone—a little better.
W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down. She quickly realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life, and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone, an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer, determined not to let anyone stop him, supposedly.
John: Where did Mitch Malone come from?
Wendy: I have no idea. I dreamed about him. Does that make my husband jealous of this man of mystery? Not really. He knows about my vivid imagination, but I’m not going into detail about that.
After A CASE OF INFATUATION came out, people who knew me well would tell me they were so surprised by the book because they couldn’t find me in it anywhere. I took that as a compliment, figuring all the characters were well crafted and unique. The only similarity between myself and Mitch Malone, my crime beat reporter, was that I had worked on a half dozen newspapers prior to adding Mom to the list of my occupations.
In A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, the third book in the Mitch Malone Mystery Series, Mitch Malone’s back story is revealed and why he is so single-minded in his focus on fame. In his latest quest for a Pulitzer Prize, Mitch returns to his hometown, gets arrested for the murder of the homecoming queen and must clear his name. In that time he finds out the town has layers of evil just below the surface and people he hasn’t talked to in years are willing to help him and believe he is innocent. Neither of these truths sets well with him and his solitary existence as he is forced to face moments of great loss from his childhood.
In writing about Mitch and his Pink-Panther-style of crime solving, I found out some truths about Mitch’s and my relationship. Mitch is the reporter I always wanted to be. He is the one that can make asking grieving mothers about the tragic loss of their toddler sound like the invasion of privacy it can be in the quest to get the story first. Mitch gets to talk back and go the extra mile in a business that counts success in word counts and headline sizes.
I have never had the inclination to return to chasing my own byline. I much prefer using my imagination to create whodunits that give the reader a real test to find the villain, but I do understand Mitch’s quest for fame and fortune in the Fourth Estate. My husband has nothing to worry about from Mitch…but my imagination will probably get him in trouble again soon! Let me know what you think of a flawed hero who against the best of intention to remain objective gets mired down in the stories he writes.
John: Mitch is obviously a thrill to spend time with. Wendy, tell us about his newest adventure. Describe A Case of Hometown Blues, please.
Wendy: When Pulitzer-winning reporter Mitch Malone's editor presses him for a favor, Malone breaks his vow to never return to his hometown. It seemed simple enough—lead a seminar for Flatville, MI's newspaper, keep a low profile and get back to the city post haste. But memories of his parents' death swarm him, and, to avoid solitude, he stops for a beer. In the crowded bar, Mitch is dismayed to see many of his former classmates—including the still-lovely Homecoming Queen, Trudy. Once the object of his teenage crush, Trudy joins Mitch. He quickly realizes she is upset and inebriated. Always the gentleman, Mitch sees her safely home, and returns to his B&B, still trying to shake memories of his parents' sad demise. The next day, he is stunned to learn Trudy was murdered and he is the prime suspect. The locals treat the murder charge as a slam dunk, and Mitch realizes he must track down the real killer to keep his butt out of jail. As he investigates, facts he thought he knew about his family unravel, and danger ratchets up. Can Mitch discover the truth that will allow his parents to rest in peace, or will he be resting with them?
A Case of Hometown Blues by Jackson author W.S. Gager (Oak Tree Press, $14.95) is the third in her series about Mitch Malone, who was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize Investigative Journalism Award. This oversized paperback is set in the small fictional town of Flatville, Mich., where Malone grew up. He's returned to give a seminar on investigative journalist techniques. The seminar is the same weekend as Malone's high school reunion, but he really doesn't want to participate. A classmate's body is found and Malone becomes the prime suspect. While Gager's highly entertaining tale wraps up a little too neatly, it's still solid escapism by a promising new talent.
—Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop
Ray Walsh has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers since 1987.
A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.