Thursday, March 6, 2014

Interview with mystery author Rex Burns

Today’s featured guest is mystery author Rex Burns. He’s here to chat about his newest novel, and the first in a new series, Body Slam.

I had the pleasure of moderating a chat with Rex at the Writer's Chatroom a few weeks back and he had so much to share. This interview is a nice addition, but not nearly long enough!

Rex Burns is the author of numerous thrillers set in and around Denver, Colorado. Born in California, he served in the Marine Corps and attended Stanford University and the University of Minnesota before becoming a writer. His Edgar Award–winning first novel, The Alvarez Journal (1975), introduced Gabe Wager, a Denver police detective working in an organized crime unit. Burns continued this hard-boiled series through ten more novels, concluding it with 1997’s The Leaning Land

Welcome, Rex. Please tell us a bit about Body Slam¸ your current release.
A father/daughter private detective team—James Raiford and Julie Campbell—is hired by a new wrestling promotion to look into purported threats from a regional wrestling monopoly. Starting from a campaign to deny wrestling venues, the attacks move to arson and then homicide. The detective team—“Touchstone Associates”—moves from investigation to survival.

Here’s the blurb:
Targeted by thugs, a wrestling impresario reaches out to an old friend.

When Otto Lidke got a tryout in pro football, he hired a lawyer friend named Jim Raiford to handle his contract. The negotiations were bungled, forcing both men into a career change. Trying to start a pro wrestling circuit in Denver, Lidke runs afoul of the national federation, which does everything it can—legal and otherwise—to stamp out his new venture. When shady business practices escalate into threats on his life, Lidke calls on Raiford, now a private investigator, to dig up some dirt on the men who are trying to put him out of business.

But instead he gets Raiford’s daughter, Julie—a whip-smart sleuth looking to prove she’s every bit as savvy as her father. As Julie and her dad dig into the vicious world of small-time wrestling, they find that though the fights may be fixed, the danger is all too real.

What inspired you to write this book?
I enjoy using different environments for my stories’ settings. In the past, I’ve used river rafting, city politics, small-time rodeo, an Indian reservation, etc. The seriocomic world of professional wrestling offered a variety of colorful characters, choreographed violence, and a large amount of money to be won or lost—as well as fun doing the research.

What exciting novel are you working on next?
The next Touchstone Associates case takes Julie to London and her father, James, to an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf to look into the problematic death of a junior officer at sea.

When did you first considered yourself a writer?
I have wanted to be a teller of stories since early childhood. Told a few, too.

Do you write full-time?
I do now. I taught full time at the University of Colorado at Denver for thirty-one years and wrote when I could. Usually I taught night classes and wrote in the mornings. Now, retired from teaching, I can finally call myself a writer, and work at it full time.

I still prefer to write in the mornings and to use the afternoons for correspondence, errands, and outdoor activities. But sometimes nothing works until the evening or the middle of the night, so I carry a notebook to catch ideas when they come.

Can you share an interesting writing quirk you have?
I keep a kitchen timer beside my computer to make me get up every hour and walk a bit.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer, probably because my father wanted to be a writer, but was killed in World War II before he could get beyond anything except a fragment of manuscript that I found.

Anything additional you’d like to share with the readers?
I’ve practiced the teaching profession long enough that it’s ingrained, and I enjoy helping, in a most limited way, fledgling writers with their skills (not their marketing—that has become a new and constantly changing world, which I have not mastered).

Thanks, Rex!

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