The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Our Dinner With Mussolini

Prologue to the story:  My Fogarty Center training grant for Uruguay and Argentina was designed to see the resources used to train graduate students to increase the talent pool for the local university faculties.  They also wanted to see a regional impact on public health of the enhanced programs.  Thus, as Director I spent a lot of my time trying to build collaborations across national borders among countries that historically did not tend to help one anther or co-operate easily on a regional scale.  That led to a lot of failed initiatives along with a few spectacular successes.

            Once upon a time, in a land long ago and far away, my colleagues from Uruguay were with me at a scientific meeting in Santiago, Chile.  We arranged to meet separately with a local academician with ties to the salmon fish farming industry in the south of Chile who had a problem that I hoped the Uruguayan colleagues might be able to help solve for him.  The problem was to be able to analyze the fish at an exquisite level of sensitivity to be able to certify that they were free of any residues of antibiotics, so as to allow their export to Japan and the European Union countries.  My Uruguayan colleagues had the necessary methodology, while the Chileans had a need.  Hence, the small meeting within the larger meeting made sense.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

German Shorthaired Pointers (GSPs)

I came across an interesting blog about GSPs today, courtesy of Robyn.  You can find her blog entitled "Adventures of a GSP Hunting Dog" at   The blog features some great photos of the dogs at work and play, not to mention at mischief.  I was most amused by her description of the breed's ancestry, "I'm pretty sure GSP's are in fact a potent combination of lightning, the common house robber, a sly fox, a velociraptor, a woodchuck, tornadoes and a vacuum cleaner. These cosmic forces clearly banded together and created my dogs."  She obviously knows the breed well. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Excerpt From The Empanada Affair

Today's blog post is Chapter 1 from my first South American mystery novel, "The Empanada Affair".  On the positive side, readers will find out how Roger and Suzanne first met and became a couple.  Readers will get to visit Salta, Argentina and the surrounding areas, a region my wife and I both loved when we lived there.  Lots of tourism, local food, and a mystery story, all for the bargain price of less than a dollar.  On the less positive side, it was my first ever novel and I was learning how to write a book by doing it.  If you are interested in seeing the evolution of a mystery writer and their characters, this is a must read---comparison with "The Surreal Killer" or "The Matador Murders"will dramatize my learning process.  And a caution for adult content (this was my first, and only, attempt to write an erotic book; I think readers will support this decision).

Without further preamble, here is Chapter 1 from The Empanada Affair:

                                                CHAPTER 1.

It was a sunny day in November, one of those days the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce tries to convince the tourists is typical of our weather all year round.  I was sitting at my desk waiting for a client to walk in and hire me.  I had been sitting at the same desk for a day or two, and was getting bored with nothing much to do.  It had been a good year for me and I had been working hard until the end of last week.  That meant I was sitting on a nice bank balance and could afford to be without a client or a job for a while longer.  On the other hand, I didn’t particularly enjoy doing nothing and thought about taking the rest of the afternoon off and making a quick trip to work out at the new Gracie Jiu Jitsu gym I had seen written up in the local news section of the L.A. Times.  A moment later the decision was taken out of my hands.

There was an assertive rap on the door, which opened and she walked in.  About 5’8”, on the good side of 30 years old, lean athletic body, Scandanavian looking face, long blond hair, and an aura of success and good breeding. Wearing $300 jeans and Bruno Magli heels, her look was casual but at the same time Los Angeles sophisticated.   Maybe it was pheromones, maybe it was just how beautiful she was, but somewhere deep in my mind a little voice was shouting, “Wow, this could be the one for you!”

I introduced myself and made a gesture; she sat on the client chair facing my desk, crossed her long legs, and leaned forward. There was a pause while she decided what to say.  I could read the letters on my door backwards; they still said “Roger Bowman Investigations”.  I glanced around the office seeing again the desk with a computer monitor on top, the computer tower and a laser printer under the desk, the client chair in front, and a couple of file cabinets against the wall.  The opposite wall featured a large window with a great view of the smog hiding the Tehachapi Mountains to the north, and a sprinkling of my various martial arts competition trophies on shelves on the walls, an overall image far less elegant than my potential new client.

“Hello. I assume you are Roger Bowman”, she said.

“Yes, I am” seemed to be the right answer.

            “My name is Suzanne Foster.”

            “What can I do to help you Ms. Foster?”

“I’m being followed”, she told me, “and there seem to be at least two people taking turns doing the following.  This has gone on for more than a week that I am aware of, and I don’t know for how long before that until I realized I was seeing the same two men behind me over and over”. 

“Do you have any idea why someone would want to have you followed?” I asked.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Magic of Machu Picchu

For all of you interested in The Magic of Machu Picchu, which really is a magical place, I wrote a fairly extensive blog entry I just posted on the topic that I highly recommend reading at  It's a good introduction to one of the most fascinating places on Earth, The Sacred City of the Incas.  Machu Picchu plays a key role as a location in The Surreal Killer, and is one of the two must-see places if you ever are a tourist in South America, at least in my opinion.  The other is The Galapagos Islands.  Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes near Cuzco, along with several islands in Lake Titicaca high in the Andes on the Peru-Bolivia border, were the most sacred cities to the Incas, who maintained a far-flung empire stretching across all of South America from Colombia in the North to Argentina in the South just prior to the Spanish conquest of the region in the 16th Century.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Going To The Dogs

At Elaine's (my wife's) urging, I'm trying to bring her hobby of dog breeding, which we've discussed here before in some of my earlier posts, into Roger and Suzanne's fictional world of mysteries and whodunits.  There are two noteworthy efforts to tell you about thus far:
(1) For Roger and Suzanne Trivia buffs we can pose the following questions and the source of the answers.  What was Roger Bowman's first case as a P.I.?  What very unusual fee was he paid?  Who was his most unusual client ever?  The answers are in a new 2,000-word short story, "The Dog with No Name", available free on Erika Szabo's blog at  Go on over and take a look.  Enjoy the story.  It's a little bit different than my usual style.
(2) Currently under construction is a new book, tentatively entitled "The Deadly Dogshow".  I can promise that no dogs will be killed or injured to advance the plot, but can't make any such promises with regards to the human characters.  In fact I can almost certainly promise that one or more humans will be killed in this story.  Suzanne and Roger have bought a dog (Juliet, a German Shorthaired Pointer, of course).  Bruce, among his many other talents, turns out to be a skilled dog trainer and handler so will be a featured player in all doggie subplots from here on.  Robert is getting old enough to help Bruce train the dog, so will also get more toner than he used to in these stories.  For the old-timers here:  remember when that used to be ink? 

There are also bit and pieces of several other short stories and one or two novels being worked on.  Current plans for the next South American book will take our characters to The Galapagos Islands to mix biology and murder in one of the most special places in the world, located off the coast of Ecuador.  They will also get a chance to visit Alaska to investigate a homicidal bear.

Now, if I can only find the time to write all of these stories........

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Body in the Bed

The excerpt below is from a new novella featuring Roger and Suzanne, once more back in Uruguay solving a murder.  The newest entry in the South American mystery series brings Roger and Suzanne back to Montevideo to attend a festive dinner honoring their friend's promotion to police captain.  There's a surprise guest waiting for them when they get to their hotel room.  Roger and Suzanne are the lead suspects in a murder, their allies on the police forces of Uruguay and Paraguay may be the targets of a conspiracy, and nobody can be trusted.  This fast paced, action filled, novella should satisfy readers of the previous books in the series as we renew acquaintances with old friends and enemies, and say farewell to one of them.  Readers new to the series can enjoy this book as a stand-alone introduction to the region and to the series characters.  This novella will be published on Amazon in time to become a special Christmas present for all of your friends with Kindles in 2012. 

The Body in the Bed

My wife, Suzanne, and I both had the same e-mail on our computer, an ultra-fancy invitation to next week’s gala event in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay.  In the most formal of Spanish, The Intendencia de Montevideo invited us to a dinner hosted by the Mayor and Police Chief to celebrate the upcoming promotion of Martin Gonzalez to the rank of Chief of Detectives.  Martin was a special friend of ours, and this was a very significant and well earned career advancement for him.   I was tempted to say yes to the invitation if Suzanne agreed to join me for the occasion.

I waited until our dinner at home in the huge house in Beverly Hills, California that Suzanne had inherited from her father after his murder, when we first met, to ask her.  She looked surprised for a moment before putting down her knife and fork and replying.

“I was looking for an excuse to suggest that we go to the celebration, but thought you might be too busy or just not want to do all the formalities they'll expect.  Let’s do it!  But I have to admit, there’s a nitpicky little voice inside my head asking whether we’ll be able to get as far as the hotel in Montevideo before we discover the first dead body.”  Suzanne rolled her eyes and grimaced as she obviously remembered discovering the grisly scene of the dismembered body in the park the first time we had come to Montevideo and first met Martin.

That earned a smile from me, probably because I've gotten so used to seeing dead bodies in my former career as a homicide detective on the Los Angeles Police department and my present work as a private detective.  “Well, so far we’ve gotten registered at the hotel once before we found the body and we’ve been told about the body before we ever got to the hotel the other time.  I guess that makes the answer to your question that it’s a 50-50 chance either way.”