We are thrilled to welcome crime novelist Paul D. Marks as our guest blogger today.
Paul's new mystery, White Heat (Timeless Skies Publishing, April 2012 trade paperback and ebook editions), introduces Los Angeles private investigators Duke Rogers and Jack Riggs.
Today Paul tells us that time waits for no one — not him or his characters. And he's also giving one of our readers the opportunity to win a copy of his book; details below.
— ◊ —
I often write about characters who have outlived their era one way or another. The world is changing around them and they're having a hard time dealing with some or all of those changes. And P.I.s Duke Rogers and Jack Riggs, the main characters in my new award-winning novel White Heat — set during the 1992 "Rodney King" riots in LA — are no exception. Their all too human weaknesses are tested during the course of the story.
Photo provided courtesy of
Paul D. Marks
The genesis for the story is, of course, in the 1992 LA riots. But also the case of Rebecca Schaeffer, an actress who was on the road to success in Hollywood and who was killed by an obsessive fan-stalker.
White Heat begins where the "Rodney King" riots leave off. Nominally a mystery-thriller, on a deeper level it's about race and racism. And it takes a harsh and hard look at that topic, sometimes so much so that it might make the reader uncomfortable. P.I. Duke Rogers finds himself in a racially charged situation. The case might have to wait … The immediate problem: getting out of South Central Los Angeles in one piece, during the 1992 "Rodney King" riots – and that's just the beginning of his problems.
Duke inadvertently helps a client find an old "friend," Teddie Matson, an up and coming African-American actress. When the client's friend is murdered Duke knows who did it. Guilt overwhelms him and he takes it upon himself to find the killer, his client. This leads him into South Central Los Angeles in April of 1992, just as the L.A. riots ignite. And while he tries to track down the killer he must also deal with the racism of his partner, Jack, and from the dead woman's brother, Warren. He must also confront his own possible latent racism — even as he's in an interracial relationship with the murder victim's sister. All of this while riots burn around them. The question becomes how do Duke and Jack deal with the inferno erupting around them and the inferno raging inside them as they see their city burn to the ground.
The novel works on two levels, that of the plot and of the characters, of course. And the two detectives, Duke and Jack, are men who grew up in one world/era but are living in another. I suppose that can be said of all of us at any time. But Jack, especially, sees the world changing around him in a variety of ways that are hard for him to accept, particularly the demographic changes in Los Angeles. He lets his frustration out in a stream of racial invective — not so unlike a lot people. Duke doesn't want to be like Jack but he does see some of himself in his partner — though he tries hard not to let that side win. To use a silly example, it's almost like in those old cartoons where you have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other and each is trying to win you over. Duke wants to be on the side of the angels, but like all of us, he's only human – all too human. So he must fight this side of his nature.
Again, in Broken Windows, the upcoming sequel to White Heat, Duke and Jack are out of their comfort zone when they have to deal with the whole illegal alien (to them), undocumented worker (to others) issue. This time around, Duke and Jack are after the killer of an illegal immigrant/undocumented worker and must again deal with the changing demographics of Southern California. The culture, the look, the sounds of the city are changing – and they feel out of place, strangers in their own land, in the town they grew up in. That said, Jack, even hardcore as he is, develops a relationship with Marisol, an illegal, whose brother he and Duke are trying to find. But the point is that they must again overcome their own weaknesses to hopefully do the right thing.
The world changes around us. We try to adapt. But sometimes it's changing so fast that our poor little human psyches can't keep up. This is what happens to Duke and Jack, and I'm sure to many of us in real life. It's not that we don't want to change. It's simply that things are happening so fast. So sometimes we do or say something against our better natures. The struggle for Duke and Jack is to sometimes act against their baser natures and do what's right — that's the struggle they face in both White Heat and Broken Windows. And what do we do in real life? If someone cuts us off who's different from us? Do we yell F-ing fill-in-the-blank? We might. But if that person were in a house on fire, would we run in to save them? We might do that too. That's the dilemma in a more simplistic way that Jack and Duke and Warren face.
Duke and Jack are thrown into situations that test their characters. So the question becomes, will they do the right thing, Jack in particular? Even if it goes against some of who they are? It's the devil and angel on each shoulder, pulling and tugging. I know what Duke and Jack have done. I know what I've done in situations that have tested me. What would you do?
— ◊ —
Paul D. Marks is the author of over thirty published short stories in a variety genres, ranging from noir to straight mystery, satire to serious fiction. His work has received praise, including awards from Glimmer Train, The Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition, SouthWest Writers, and more. His work has appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Dime, the Deadly Ink 2010 Short Story Collection, Murder in La La Land, Murder Across the Map, LAndmarked for Murder, Hardboiled magazine and more. He has also published numerous magazine/periodical articles as well as having done film work. He is also the last person to have shot on the fabled MGM backlot before it bit the dust to make way for housing. For more about the author, visit his website at PaulDMarks.com.
— ◊ —
About White Heat:
P.I. Duke Rogers finds himself in a racially charged situation. The case might have to wait … The immediate problem: getting out of South Central Los Angeles in one piece during the 1992 Rodney King riots and that's just the beginning of his problems.
Private investigator Duke Rogers finds an old "friend" for a client. The client's "friend," an up and coming black actress, ends up dead. Duke knows his client did it. Now, feeling guilty, he wants to find the client/killer. He starts his mission by going to the dead actress' family in South Central L.A. — and while there the Rodney King riots ignite.
And while he tries to track down the killer he must also deal with the racism of his partner, Jack, and from the dead woman's brother, Warren. He must also confront his own possible latent racism — even as he's in an interracial relationship with the murder victim's dead woman's sister.
For a chance to win a copy of White Heat, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Paul D. Marks: White Heat" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (4419) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends June 6th, 2012.)