Mystery Books News is delighted to welcome Michael Robert Gordon as our guest blogger. Michael is the author of Killer Commute (Champagne Books, July 2010 ebook), the first mystery in the Killer Train trilogy.
Today, Michael Robert writes about the idea for Killer Commute. And he's also providing our readers with an opportunity to win a copy of his book (provided as a gift certificate). Visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Michael Robert Gordon: Killer Commute" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (8832) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends August 19, 2010.)
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Photo credit Emma Tess Gordon, provided courtesy of
Michael Robert Gordon
I’m writing this on the train. That may not seem like a big deal, but I need to find spots and times when I can write. I have four children, work full time in sales and if I didn’t take the train, which recently is more common, I’d drive an hour and half in my car each way to work. My writing would be limited to a couple of hours on the weekends. We know what happens on the weekend. It’s seductive power keeps you in bed longer, the games you want to watch are on the weekends, chores need to be completed and the handoff is made back to the work on Monday. Many of us want to write, but when to write is the question, which brings me to how I came up with the idea of Killer Commute.
Ever see the show with Donny Deutch, The Big Idea? It was a motivator and gave entrepraneurs an opportunity to meet investors, but more to share their unique success stories. His guests ranged from an out of work marketing consultant who invented a machine to help stretch the body, to a pair of young men who began a private jet chartering company to executives. Donny would stress two things: you can do it and you needed to work hard at your idea. This brings me back to my book. I found myself thinking about my Big Idea while on the train and suddenly realized I was the last one in the train. It was a little spooky. Anything could happen to me and no one would know. Sounded like an idea for a mystery. I checked the web for any mysteries that took place on a commuter train – there weren’t any. An idea and an opportunity presented itself to me.
Here’s where my miniscule knowledge of marketing comes in, each day more than a hundred thousand passengers ride the train. What is the percentage of readers? A significant percentage of passengers are readers, though as I’m writing this two are sleeping and one is applying makeup carefully as we bob and weave slowly over the tracks. Reading a book keeps up the narrow wall of privacy. You know how valuable your privacy is and especially your time. Make sure what you write has a market before you write it.
Here’s an example, many years ago I worked on a book project about a minor league hockey team, The Long Island Ducks; 1965 Eastern League Champions. The league influenced the movie Slap Shot with Paul Newman. I conducted interviews, face to face and on the phone, travelled, went to minor league games and started sending queries to book publishers before I jumped into writing the book. I learned there was little interest in the project, so I did not write that book. I don’t want to dissuade a writer from writing that heart- felt manuscript, that romance or fiction that they need to create. Richard Elman, my mentor and pseudo father figure told me years ago, “write with love.” And I believe that. Write with love whatever it is, if you love what you’re writing it will not be a chore. Editing will be a chore, but writing the book is creating that love, feeling the juices bubbling up in your brain and feeling you accomplished something beautiful.
Let’s swing this back to Killer Commute. Mick Doran is a veteran detective for the Metropolitan Transit Authority - MTA. This is the unit who protects the public on the trains. A body is found on the train as it pulls into the last stop – Port Jefferson. Where did I get the name Mick Doran? Mick is a common name for that rough detective, my ma calls me Mick and Doran is my ma’s maiden name. Simple. Granda was a boxer, and was known around Kimmage, Dublin as “Champ” so I made Mick an ex boxer and an Irish immigrant and surprise, a cop. I know what you’re thinking – so original. But I needed more, so he’s a hypochondriac. Hypochondria is a common trait for a Gordon, it’s a complex we’ve acquired and share it’s tendencies, like whining about a lack of sleep. Whenever we’re together (My brother, sisters and Ma) we compare notes on our lack of sleep, ailments, natural remedies. I was raised by a health conscious Irish hippie whose resources were rooted Roman Catholic faith, wheat germ, Brewers yeast, and tea and toast with beans.
But there’s more to the book than Mick Doran. He’s working with his ex-wife’s husband, Reggie Sanders who is one of the few African American detectives for the Suffolk County Police Department. The county police would normally conduct a homicide investigation since they have the resources, but there goes the novel, so I used some creative licensing. Where ever the investigators can determine the homicide took place, that entity or department would lead the investigation. I learned this from a county homicide detective. So I can hear the groveling by the MTA cops. Reminds me when I was a little boy watching the Love Boat, my dad who is a retired merchant marine, would always critique what the captain was doing or said. Come to think of it, dad would barely say a word unless he was critiquing that show.
So you know Mick and his partner Reggie Sanders. This sounds intriguing the duality between the two. They agree to work together. So, I wanted Mick and Reggie to put aside their differences. Besides, Mick thinks Reggie is a decent man. It’s not as if his wife went out and cheated on him, I didn’t want to have that. His ex just fell out of love with Mick. It happens…but back to the murders…who is killing the passengers? What do the passengers have in common?
If you’re writing a mystery, true crime, pulp, there needs to be a motive for the killing. This comes from my research with the detective. I would recommend researching; make the characters and your book as believable as possible. You don’t want to have someone like my dad rolling his eyes and yelling at the pages, “That would never happen!” And my dad never yells. Except the time I stole the box of thin mint Girl Scout cookies…he was pissed.
You have the power to create and use whatever you want. For instance, I used the lyrics with permission from REM’s song, Mr. Richards. It’s a cool song, sort of mystical in its own, but I thought the lyrics could coincide with the book and it fits perfectly. I use real towns, real landmarks, so when passengers on the train ride to Port Jefferson, they can see the Nissaqogue River, the statue of the bull in Smithtown, the rusting abandoned cars in the woods, the blue tent (read the book). What I’m trying to say is, be detailed…it brings the scene closer to you as the reader and to the writer.
Did I write the book with love? I can hear Richard’s voice ask and then see a slight smile ease over his lips. We both know the answer.
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Michael Robert Gordon is a father of four. He is a former merchant marine, free lance journalist and currently a Director for Business Development. Learn more about him on his blog.
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About Killer Commute: Mick Doran is a former city police detective, now working with the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Down on his luck, and hypochondriacal as hell, he's assumed to be washed up, no good and useless as a detective until fate drops a murder investigation on his train.
Assigned to work alongside his ex-wife's detective husband, Mick must battle his own demons as well as the disapproval of the Suffolk County Police Department while they wade through evidence, hostile witnesses and an increasing suspect list.
For a chance to win a copy of Killer Commute (provided as a gift certificate) courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Michael Robert Gordon: Killer Commute" contest link, and enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (8832) in the entry form. (One entry per person; contest ends August 19, 2010.)