Sunday, May 29, 2011

Author Jack Bates on The Butcher's Heir

The very popular 1-Hour Audiobook Harry Landers, Private Investigator Series’ first episode was published in December, 2008. The Butcher’s Heir was the sixth published episode in August, 2010, and since January of this year, it has become extremely popular with MP3 download listeners. To what do you attribute the surge for this particular episode?
"I've had people tell me they thought I was hitting my stride with Landers in this particular story. I think I started to move away from Harry being a pastiche of other better known PI characters. Plus, I practically have him eaten by wild boars. I read once where there has to be a dead body in a detective story otherwise it fails as crime fiction. Mumbly Peg had everything but that, so Harry had to move into a darker world. It's a natural progression."

In The Butcher’s Heir the son of a long missing union president, Lane Shanks, turns to him for help, and private investigator Harry Landers delves into a mystery that spans two decades. The story is reminiscent of the disappearance of Teamster Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa—that is what I thought about when I listened to it. Was that the intent?
"I was a kid growing up in Detroit as the story developed. It's become part of the Detroit folklore. You drive by the restaurant where he was last seen and can't help but think of how many times it was on the evening news or in the papers. Plus, I grew up in a union house and an extended union family so the disappearance was a major topic at family gatherings and during dinner. The story just kind of became the basis for hiring Harry. When I first started writing it, I was calling it The Udjat Eye and tried to draw a correlation between Egyptian myths and the case. It was very heavy handed. I wisely followed my editor's advice and wrote what I knew."

Your story has its own compelling path and findings in solving the case, keeping listeners plugged-in throughout. What was the inspiration for the various characters?
"Characters start to unfold for a writer. Harry investigates problems, so there has to be people there for Harry to question, react off of, follow. Most often, one character will suggest Harry talk to someone else. Other times I know I need for there to be someone at a certain point in the story so I'll work my way to him or her. A friend of mine who has risen to be president of his local union once told me when we were both rank and file that absolute power corrupts. I've seen affairs happen, political infighting, broken friendships. It all helps to create unique and interesting possibilities for fiction."

In this story, Harry experiences physical assault—something in the past he has avoided when possible. I don’t want to spoil the story so I won’t elaborate, but is Harry going to be more physical in solving cases in the future?
"Yes. In fact, in the latest story I've submitted, Meatballs and Murder, he's a lot more physical."

Do you plan to continue writing the Harry Landers, P.I. series?
"Whenever an idea strikes me, I'll try it out as a Harry story. He's three years older than when I first started writing about him so he's developed from the kind of milquetoast slacker into a guy who is discovering the world he's put himself in isn't open and shut."

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