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Thursday, July 26, 2012


The Ozark Valley in the fog

We have a special guest today to talk about the Ozarks. Bill Hopkins is a judge turned author. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications, and he's had several short plays produced. Bill is also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Courting Murder is his first mystery novel. Learn more about Bill at his website. -- AP

Bald Eagle Persuasion

The bald eagle persuaded me that I was right.

Plains, rivers, huge mountains, small mountains, deserts, and oceans. America has all kinds of landscapes and all kinds of people living here. I was born and raised in the Ozarks. They're not mountains, not really. There might be some tall hills, deep valleys, and rolling country, but not true mountains.

I still live in the Missouri Ozarks near my tiny hometown named Marble Hill. (No one is quite sure why it's named that. Despite what Wikipedia says, there is no marble or marble-like rock anywhere around.) My wife (mystery writer Sharon Woods Hopkins, author of Killerwatt and Killerfind) and I live deep in the boondocks, which means few vehicles ever pass on the gravel road in front of our house. It also means that we're living on someone else's property. That's right, we're trespassing on where at one time only animals lived.

That really doesn't bother them much. In fact, the deer love eating Sharon's flowers, the armadillos love digging in the mulch around the trees in our yard, the foxes love denning in the deadfall in a patch of woods near the house, and the coyotes run howling, mostly at night. Although bears and mountain lions live in our neck of the woods, we haven't seen any of them. Yet.

This description sounds pastoral. And it is. Yet, when it came time for me to try my hand at writing a mystery novel, I wandered around my couple of isolated acres, pondering the location of a story about violent crime. Saint Louis? Memphis? New Orleans? I'm familiar with those cities. The notion of crime in a city is standard fare in mysteries, and I love urban mysteries.

There's also a strain of mysteries that take place in the country. That's what I decided I wanted to do: Write a mystery about the rural area that I knew best. Folks out in the country can murder with the best of them. And the protagonist? I'm a retired judge, but my hero could be a working judge who's tired of listening to boring stuff in the courtroom. In fact, he thinks he'd make a better detective than judge. Since he is a judge, the law enforcement folks are hardly thrilled to have him snooping where he shouldn't be sticking his nose.

Thus was born Courting Murder:

When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he's plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who's always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.

I knew the rural setting was right because I received a sign from on high. On the jaunt where I finally decided the location for the crimes, a bald eagle swooped overhead and lit in a tall oak tree. She had built her nest somewhere back in the forest behind my house. She regularly flies over our pond and helps herself to whatever fish happen to be swimming too close to the surface.

If the Ozark countryside is good enough for a bald eagle, then it's good enough for a couple of murders!

Interesting parallel to end with, Bill! Thanks for stopping by today. Readers, post a comment for a chance to win books from our Book Club Friday guest author this week. -- AP


Bill Hopkins said...

Thanks for having me on! I appreciate it.

Tina Hagan said...

Can't wait to get my hands on this book!!!!!

Bookdoc said...

From the publisher: Readers are going to love this book, Bill, especially Rosswell Carew. I don't publish many mysteries, but Courting Murder grabbed my attention from the onset, and I couldn't put the manuscript down. For me, that's a good sign!

Bill Hopkins is an experienced writer, very professional, and his Facebook posts are hilarious. With that sense of humor in both Bill and fictional character, Rosswell Carew, I suspect that Bill's very close to Rosswell. First cousins? Alter egos?

What say you, Bill? How did you decide upon a superlative, funny, humanly flawed main character like Rosswell?

Bill Hopkins said...

Thanks, Tina and Bookdoc.

I'm unlike Rosswell in that I'd never dare do what he does, lest I get killed or arrested!

We might be first cousins once removed.

Sharon Hopkins said...

I love the book too. Of course, many would say I am prejudiced. However, if I didn't like it, I would be a good wife and just nod and smile and say "yes, dear.". Instead, I'm singing it's praises. Well, maybe not singing, since I don't want to drive anyone either away, or crazy. It's a great book!

Radine Trees Nehring said...

This is a book I must have! Though we live in the Arkansas Ozarks rather than Missouri, our situation is very close to Bill and Sharon's, and we love it, too. (Bill, how is your Internet reception? Feeble Internet has been our biggest drawback since there is no cable, DSL or whatever available, and satellite tried by neighbors in our forest has been unsatisfactory. We have Verizon MiFi, and, even on the edge of their coverage area, it's a LOT better than previous dial-up. Cell phones don't work here, either, by the way.) Anyway, I am another Ozarks author who loves writing mystery novels set at special places in the Ozarks, and I look forward to buying one from "over the border." Bill, do you come to Ozarks Writers League? Next OWL meeting is at College of the Ozarks at Point Lookout, MO on August 18. Good speakers. I am signing at T. Charleston at Grand Village Shops 10-3 on the 17th. Sorry this is so long--couldn't stop talking!

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Forgot to say, T. Charleston is in Branson, and Point Lookout is just south of Branson.