Tag Archives: Lesley Latte

S.C. Harker’s ‘Binnacle Bay’: Hard cop, soft cop.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 11.57.45 AMConfession #1: I’m a big city boy, and I’m generally sympathetic to the view – expressed to me by a drunken philosopher many years ago – that the countryside should be closed down and left to the fauna.

Confession #2: I’m obsessed by the USA and its vast kaleidoscope of landscapes. My imagination is gripped by its splendours and its ugliness, its coziness and its brutality. There is a standing joke in my house that one day we will visit New Iberia in Louisiana, where Tabasco Sauce is made. ‘Over my dead body’ is the punchline. Of course New Iberia is the home of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robichaux, the archetype southern deputy sheriff and hardboiled ex-alcoholic. How different can S.C. Harker’s Pat Fitzlaff be from Robichaux? The landscape is part of the explanation: Harker’s Binnacle Bay is in the coastal NorthWest; setting shapes a character, and there’s a whole continent between sweaty Lousiana and the bracing winds of coastal Oregon.

But Fitzlaff fascinated me from the outset; under the tough guy is an almost feminine sensibility. Harker’s competence as a writer gives him the requisite three dimensions, but I kept coming back to the small touches – his orderly house, his courtesy, his eye for detail in jewelry and clothing; there’s an extra dimension to this guy.

And of course there’s the immersive experience of Binnacle Bay: Nautical, cosy and small-town, with a cast of eccentrics you’d expect and some you wouldn’t. I said I was a big city boy: I feel more comfortable in Sydney or Paris or Manhattan, but there’s nothing like a vicarious vacation in Binnacle Bay or even New Iberia! You can find more details of Binnacle Bay and S.C. Harker’s other novels here.

My colleague Lesley Latte happened to be in Seattle recently and offered to track down the elusive S.C. Harker to pose a few searching questions. Here’s what Lesley learned:

Latte.  I felt that Pat Fitzlaff had a softer side than the standard hard-bitten cop. How did he get this way?

Harker.  That’s easy.  A violent death in the family.  Pat was born in a small town in central Nevada and spent much of his young life there.   As the only boy, he was particularly close to his father, an avid sportsman who loved hunting and fishing and never failed to take Pat with him on his rambles through the remote desert landscape. Pat was an expert in survival at an early age.

His two younger sisters idolized their brother, and their sibling relationships were normal for an average, small-town family.  In other words, the older brother mostly ignored the two girls, considering himself above what he considered their silly, juvenile behavior.

Then, when he was fifteen, Pat’s world was turned upside down.  The older of Pat’s sisters was brutally murdered, and the case was never solved.  This tragic incident was devastating to the family and had a profound impact on Pat, ultimately leading to his passion to become a homicide detective.  Conversely, rather than becoming bitter and hard-bitten, Pat is rather more sympathetic than most, especially toward the victims of crime.  It is one of his strengths.

Latte.  You create a great sense of place in the Binnacle Bay community. How did you invent this setting?

Harker.  I lived for a prolonged period of time on the Oregon coast in a house overlooking the sea.  We had a boat and fished the ocean for Salmon, Albacore, Halibut—you name it.  We had close encounters with whales and dolphin, and more than once had to rely on our GPS to find our way home in the fog.  Many times at low tide we walked down our hill and dug for clams.  We also crabbed whenever we got the chance and bought fresh oysters from the local farm.

Almost every day we took long walks on the beach with our two Brittany Spaniels.  By the way, though Murphy is a giant hound*, he is simply a dog at heart, and I learned about the true heart of a dog from my Spaniels.  Everything I write about Binnacle Bay is from experience and colored by my love of the ocean, dogs, small towns, and the people who inhabit them.

Latte.   Stuart Campbell tells me he likes to imagine having a drink with his characters, but is there anybody in Binnacle Bay who you’d avoid if they walked into a bar?

Harker.  There are always a couple of pains in the neck in every town.  Alba Enstadt is definitely someone I would avoid.  She appears in “The Bloody Lighthouse,” as does Beezer Arthur.  To have a drink with them I would have to go to Pirate’s Cove.  It’s not that I object to a low-class saloon every now and then, but Alba is a mean drunk who gets more and more combative as the night goes on.  And Beezer has the kind of unrelenting, smart-ass attitude that, as time goes on, makes you want to either get up and leave or, depending on how many drinks, to smash his face.

One person with whom I would never share a drink is the cold-hearted being who appears in “The Bloody Lighthouse” and again in “An Echo of Murder” (to be released later this year).

#

*Murphy is a canine character in the book – SC

Read a free sample of An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity  here. Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity and The Play’s the Thing . Stuart Campbell’s covers are designed by Rachel Ainge .

Advertisements

Pamela Crane looks inside a murder victim’s heart.

Pamela Crane with Tinkerbell_author picIndie novelist Pamela Crane’s A Secondhand Life found its way into my Kindle this year. I needed a rest in my project to re-read all of William Faulkner’s main works, and Pamela’s book fell between As I Lay Dying and Soldier’s Pay. Did I need a rest! Did I need a crisp, refreshing read!

A Secondhand Life is based on a clever plot premise: Could the recipient of a transplanted organ experience the thoughts and feelings of the donor? Pamela Crane delves into the implications of the premise:  How would a donor recipient reconcile her own and the donor’s mind? Would it be possible to explore the details of memories evoked by the donor organ?

On top of this foundation, the author erects a thriller plot that makes for some highly original characterisations and twists. By the time I got to the ending, I had sticky fingers from counting red herrings. My five star review can be found here.

It has to be said, however, that the plot premise does have an antecedent. I did some checking and found that a 1971 UK comedy movie Percy runs a similar line; you don’t even need to click the link to guess which organ seventies comic actor Hywell Bennett received. The Kinks did the soundtrack, by the way.

My protégé Lesley Latte was unavailable to interview Crane, so I popped these questions over the email:

Q- What compels you to write?

A- Four little kids clambering for my focus all day, combined with no adult time, compels me to write. Writing is my break from reality…and it’s scary to say that living in the mind of a serial killer is much more exciting than changing diapers and housekeeping!

A- What would you (as author, not narrator) say to Brad if you met him in a bar?

Q- R.U.N. Run away from Mia Germaine as fast as you possibly can, Brad. A chick who chases serial killers–you don’t need that drama. Romantic relationships are tough enough without your significant other bringing a murderer into the mix.

A- When I write, my characters often take over the plot, and I am sometimes surprised at where they take the book. Does that happen to you?

Q- Even though I believe I create my characters, you’re right–they somehow live outside of my imagination and evolve independent of my will. As my characters develop through the story-writing phase, the plot needs to stay in line with who they are. In my thriller A Secondhand Life, Mia Germaine is stubborn (uh, nothing like me…but don’t ask my husband about this!), which causes her to nearly lose the love of her life, Brad. I hadn’t planned for that relationship tension, but it happened because of who she is (certainly not based on myself–did I say that already?).

 

Read a free sample of An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity  here. Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity and The Play’s the Thing . Stuart Campbell’s covers are designed by Rachel Ainge .

Sydney author slams “Young Kipper War” gaffe

charcuterie monthy 002Sydney author Stuart Campbell says he is ‘disappointed and upset’ at Lesley Latte’s ambush interview with him in New Caledonia, in  which the roving correspondent said that Campbell’s new novel Cairo Mon Amour was set in the 1973 ‘Young Kipper’ War.  He has called on the new editor of Charcuterie Monthly, Gilbert Saucisson, to ‘send  Latte back to school to learn some history’.

In a brief statement, Saucisson said that Latte would be censured for h** error, adding that Charcuterie Monthly‘s editorial guidelines require that all articles include reference to meat, but not fish.

 

** Lesley Latte reserves the right not to disclose h** gender

Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing

Stuart Campbell’s covers are designed by Rachel Ainge .