|The author and his father from back in the day|
Neil S. Plakcy is the author of more than thirty mystery and romance novels, but more importantly (at least to them), he is Papa Neil to two rambunctious golden retrievers who inspire the antics of crime-sniffing golden Rochester – though so far the only dead bodies they have discovered are an unfortunate squirrel and a slow-moving raccoon. Today he discusses how his father inspired some of writing. Learn more about Neil and his books at his website.
Steve’s Father… and Mine
A lot of the characteristics of Steve Levitan’s father come from my own. As I did, Steve grew up Jewish in the suburbs across the Delaware River from Trenton, New Jersey. His father, like mine, was an engineer and a handyman, with a full shop in the basement.
I moved to Florida in 1986, and my parents decided to follow me soon after. If you’ve ready any of the books, you’ll know that Steve’s parents were pack rats – as were mine.
One of the first things my father agreed to give up when my parents began talking about moving was his collection of metal sheets and tubes. He used to bring home scraps from the Boeing Vertol aircraft plant where he worked in Philadelphia, and he also bought supplies for projects that never materialized.
For example, when our house was built, my father planned to install a full bathroom in the basement, so he’d put aside copper pipe for it. Twenty-eight years after we moved in, the bathroom was still a fantasy, but the copper pipe was a reality.
After four trips to the scrap yard, we had sold 125 pounds of lead, two hundred pounds of aluminum, and smaller amounts of brass, copper and mysterious alloys which I had never heard of but which were apparently used in aircraft manufacture, and were highly prized by the scrap man.
We spent many of my childhood Sundays at the flea market in Lambertville, where Steve and Lili go in one of the books. It’s still going strong, years later. My father would walk up to a table of random tools and pick one up. “What does this do?” he’d ask.
Usually the person behind the table would say, “Damned if I know.”
My father would usually then say, “How much?” and if the price was right, he’d take it. As he got older, he suffered from peripheral neuropathy, and couldn’t work with his hands as he had. By the time we held the first of our yard sales, selling off whatever my parents didn’t want to take to Florida, there was a thin coating of dust on his workbench.
We had a chance to chat with a lot of customers as they browsed, and many of them were as curious as my father. It made me laugh when he had to admit that he’d never figured out what most of those unfamiliar tools were.
One of our customers was an insurance agent with an office on Main Street in Yardley, who gave us a down payment on the circular saw.
His son was working on becoming an eagle scout, and had to build a project that necessitated the saw. They couldn't take it away, though, because the car was already loaded for a hiking trip they were taking the next morning, a practice hike in the Appalachians in preparation for a ten-day hike in New Mexico with the Boy Scouts later in the summer.
While the agent and his son were in the cellar examining the saw, I asked my father if he'd have gone hiking with me in the Appalachians when I was a teenager, back before he had both his hips replaced and his arthritis set in. He said, ''Don't be ridiculous," and began to look for the instruction manual for the saw.
That was my dad, and it gives me a lot of pleasure to bring his personality in when I describe Steve’s.
Dog’s Green Earth
A Golden Retriever Mystery
When his golden retriever Rochester discovers a body during one of their nightly walks, reformed computer hacker Steve Levitan must look to his neighbors for suspects. Could a killer be lurking along the oak-lined streets?
Steve inherited his townhome from his father, and it’s more than just a house to him—it’s the place where he recovered from the loss of two miscarried babies, the pain of losing his parents and the misery of his brief incarceration. Now that he has a new sweetheart, and a loving dog, protecting his home is even more important.
Could someone in the homeowner’s association be sabotaging efforts to keep River Bend a well-maintained place to live? It’s up to Steve and Rochester to dig up the clues to bring a murderer to justice, and protect the place they call home.