The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Sunday, May 4, 2014


This entry will be posted to my blog when I submit “The Origin of Murder” to Amazon for publication.  It usually takes Amazon about 24 hours to publish a book after the author uploads it to KDP site, so wait till tomorrow before you check out the new book page.  I thought a bit of background, if not the book itself, might interest some of the readers of this blog.

In "The Origin of Murder", Roger, Suzanne, Robert, and Bruce take a vacation cruise through the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador. Of course, Suzanne finds another dead body floating in the Pacific Ocean and we're off to solve another deadly mystery.  Among the suspects are a mysterious travel agent, a bird watching couple from Germany, a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, two sisters from San Francisco, and couples from Uruguay and Australia.

Source material:  Elaine and I visited the Galapagos Islands in 1999.  Last year I discovered Elaine’s diaries from the trip, which detailed what we saw and whom we met in Quito and on the cruise through the islands.  The diaries (two notebooks full) had been buried in lots of paperwork from the time we spent in South America that year.  “Aha,” said I, “this is the stuff of which mystery novels are made!”

Real people from the diaries that became characters in the novel:  We actually met a couple of sisters from San Francisco who became the inspiration for Gretchen and Barbara Kaufman in the book.  They became friends for a while.  We’d get together for lunch or dinner whenever we got to San Francisco for a couple of years after we got back from Ecuador.  But we drifted apart and lost track of each other.  We saw a wedding announcement for the younger sister several years ago, but that’s all we know for follow-up.  We also met an Ecuadorian tourist agent named Raul in Quito, who came on the cruise with the four of us and was maintaining a secret identity as a tourist to evaluate the quality of his agency’s product.  General Aleman’s counterpart did sit next to me on the flight from Guayaquil to Baltra and did introduce me to the islands, especially Baltra, and their military history.  I never saw him again after we got off the flight.  The guides on the M/S Santa Cruz are described pretty accurately based upon the diaries.

Real places we visited:  Thanks to Elaine’s diaries, all of the places described in Quito and the islands visited in the Galapagos were places we had visited when we were there and the details are accurate as of a decade and a half ago.  Elaine and I also visited the Club Med on the Sea of Cortez in Sonora, Mexico while it was still in operation as a Club Med.  The physical description is accurate (we still had plenty of photos from our visit) and the story about “Doris” that Roger tells Sophia and Suzanne over dinner is based on a real person, whose name I have long since forgotten, we met on the flight south from LAX to the Sonoran desert.

The cover photo:  Elaine took this picture (and a whole lot more) on one of the islands we visited on the cruise we took through the Galapagos Reserve.  With a little help from iPhoto to crop, sharpen, and enlarge the original (my part of the job), we had what I think is the perfect cover art and design for this novel.

Recurring characters:  Eduardo Gomez joined the series in “The Ambivalent Corpse”, and has been a participant in all of the novels set in South America since his debut.  You can find him playing major supporting roles in “The Surreal Killer”, “The Matador Murders”, and “The Body In The Bed”, as well as in this book.  Bruce the nanny joined the series just after Robert was born (that makes sense, I think) so made his debut in “The Matador Murders”. You can find him playing major supporting roles in “The Deadly Dog Show”, “The Body in the Parking Structure”, and “Someone Did It To The Butler”, the latter two stories being included in the anthology “Five Quickies For Roger And Suzanne”.  You’ll get to meet Gretchen and Barbara Kaufman again in the next novel in this series, currently being written and tentatively entitled “Being Dead In Alaska Is Unbearable”.

Length of book:  At more than 75,500 words this is my second longest novel, just behind “The Deadly Dog Show” in total word count.  For some reason, my novels are getting longer as the series progresses.  I don’t know why.  If nothing else, the reader is getting more words at the same price, so these later books are even bigger bargains!

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