Thursday, August 30, 2012

Please Welcome Novelist Jeffrey B. Burton

Omnimystery News: Guest Author Post
by Jeffrey B. Burton

We are delighted to welcome novelist Jeffrey B. Burton as our guest today.

Jeff's new thriller is The Chessman (MacAdam/Cage Publishing, May 2012 hardcover), featuring FBI Special Agent Drew Cady on the case of a serial killer … and you have a chance to win a copy of it, courtesy of the author; more details below.

We asked Jeff how he came to know Drew Cady.

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The tease on the inside cover of The Chessman reads: "Hidden forces are willing to kill any and all who stand in the way of untold billions. To toss the authorities off track, they borrow the modus operandi of a brutal serial killer — The Chessman — who stalked the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. some years earlier. The ruse is working brilliantly except for one minor detail. The real Chessman is not pleased — not pleased one iota — that someone has stolen his M.O. Enter Drew Cady, ex-FBI agent, who finds himself being sucked back into the very case that almost took his life, a case that crippled him both physically and emotionally. By capturing The Chessman and his blood-spattered copycat, Cady has a last shot at redemption. If he can find a way to survive, that is."

So, Jeff, you ask … how could you possibly have met your fictional FBI agent?

Jeffrey B. Burton
Photo provided courtesy of
Jeffrey B. Burton

Please permit me a flashback from the mid-1990s.

Back in that day I whiled away the hours as a trainer for a company that made litigation databases. Chances are my greasy fingerprints were all over any major lawsuit making the headlines. Best I bite my tongue as who knows how many confidentiality agreements I signed are still in effect. I trained staff on entering case data and then managed teams as they created the document abstracts that comprised the databases. Eventually, attorneys could search these databases and discover that a key player had been copied on a document proving that he/she was well aware of the existence of [REDACTED] and now their goose and that of their multi-billion dollar company was thoroughly cooked.

So imagine my surprise when an HR clerk, a spirited Greenbay Packer fan (who never let us forget it), called to inform me that an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation was in her office and needed to speak with yours truly.

"Is it about the hitchhiker?" I asked, thinking she was putting me on.

"He's here to ask you about a guy in your group."

"Um, okay," I mumbled, sensing that the HR clerk was serious, that an FBI agent was indeed in the room with her. "I'm on my way."

"And what's all that about a hitchhiker?"

"Never mind. I'll be right down."

It's not every day an FBI agent appears at your work requesting a chat. Sure enough, the Wisconsinite had been telling the truth, a man in a dark suit was waiting for me, standing, and holding a brief case. Now I'm a towering 5' 10", but this gentleman—early forties, brown hair, gray at the temples—had a good three inches on me. I took the agent to an empty break room where we sat down and he began to explain himself.

Turns out a staff member on my team had applied for an embassy position overseas. As such, the agent was performing a background check and needed to ask me, as the potential embassy worker's current supervisor, a series of questions. The agent proceeded to ask about the employee's social life, if the employee was into recreational drugs or drank too much, partied too hard—that sort of stuff. The worker in question had been in my group for under a month, so my answers were incantations of "Don't know. Sorry. Don't know." I explained to the agent how once the employee left at the end of the shift, I didn't see him again until the following morning.

The agent switched gears and began to ask specific questions about the employee's sex life, his sexual preferences, and his sexual habits. I believe the intent was to find out if there was anything that could open the potential embassy worker up to blackmail.

Squirming in my chair, I repeated my mantra. "Don't know. Sorry. Don't know." I informed the agent that I did not know the employee on a personal level, that we did not socialize, and that I was not the one to answer questions about his sex life. I came close to joking about my not having had sex with the employee, but kept my Tourette's in check.

Another thing I kept in check was my opinion about said employee. How shall I phrase this delicately so as not to offend? Said employee was a shit apple. His work product was good but with new hires, there's always something to be found. Plus it lets the newbies know that their work is being monitored. So the first—and only—time I sat down with him to walk through his feedback, he gave me nothing, no response, no nods of acknowledgement … nada. I began to wonder if had driven into the back of a snow plow or something, so I began to repeat the critique.

"Don't belabor the point," the employee cut me off mid-sentence, still stone-faced.

A light bulb clicked on over my head as we stared at one another in the ensuing silence. He was dicking with me—boring job, what the hell, might as well liven things up by jerking the supervisor's chain. After that bit of unpleasantness, I'd wait until the employee left for the restroom, and then I'd drop a feedback form on his desk and scamper back to the safety of my office.

Anyway, the FBI agent, watching me fidget, gave a shrug and mentioned that these were the questions he had to ask as part of the background check. Then he looked at me and said, "You don't like him, do you?"

I was stunned. The agent had somehow picked up on my genuine impression about the employee. And I got a hunch that there were not many ways a person could lie to this gentleman from the FBI and pull it off. I mumbled something to the effect of, "The guy's not the most cordial of sorts, but there have been no problems. I only know him on a superficial basis. His work has been fairly spotless."

You can probably tell that I was lobbying for the employee to get the embassy position — which he ultimately did — and not only because he'd be out of my hair, but, who knows, being a shit apple may be a cherished commodity in a setting like Beirut or Libya.

So let's flash forward to when I began writing The Chessman. The novel is about an intuitive FBI agent who's trying to claw his way out of the darkness and murk as the result of an investigation that went horribly south and it occurred to me who I wanted to model Special Agent Drew Cady after … the agent who came to visit me as part of a background check on a potential embassy employee all those years ago.

And that is exactly how I met my fictional FBI agent in real life.

— ◊ —

The stories of Jeffrey B. Burton have appeared in dozens of genre magazines (mystery, horror, sci-fi, literary). A collection of his short stories, Shadow Play, and a mystery novel, Sleuth Slayer, have previously been published.

Jeff is an Active member of the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and the Horror Writers Association (HWA). He may be stalked at JeffreyBBurton.com.

— ◊ —

The Chessman by Jeffrey B. Burton

The Chessman
Jeffrey B. Burton
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Hidden forces are willing to kill any and all who stand in the way of untold billions. To toss the authorities off track, they borrow the modus operandi of a brutal serial killer — The Chessman — who stalked the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. some years earlier.

The ruse is working brilliantly except for one minor detail. The real Chessman is not pleased — not pleased one iota — that someone has stolen his M.O.

Enter Drew Cady, ex-FBI agent, who finds himself being sucked back into the very case that almost took his life, a case that crippled him both physically and emotionally. By capturing The Chessman and his blood-spattered copycat, Cady has a last shot at redemption.

If he can find a way to survive, that is.

Amazon.com Print and/or Kindle Edition  Barnes&Noble Print Edition and/or Nook Book  Indie Bound: Independent Bookstores

For a chance to win a copy of The Chessman, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Jeffrey B. Burton: The Chessman" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code — 4970 — for a chance to win! (One entry per person, US residents only; contest ends September 6th, 2012.)

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