Saturday, September 06, 2014

Please Welcome Crime Novelist Christopher Meeks

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Christopher Meeks
with Christopher Meeks

We are delighted to welcome mystery author Christopher Meeks to Omnimystery News today.

Chris's new crime thriller is A Death in Vegas (White Whisker Books; July 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats).

We asked Chris what led him to write books in our favorite genre, and he titles his guest post for us today "Why Crime?".

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Christopher Meeks
Photo provided courtesy of
Christopher Meeks

My wife loves watching bludgeoning shows. This is our term for real-crime series such as 20/20, 48 Hours, and Dateline. Their stories, more times than not, cover serial killers or one spouse knocking off the other for profit or for the love of another.

For instance, a wife wants to divorce her husband, and then she doesn't pick up the kids after work one night. Days later, her body, cut into sections, floats to the top of a lake in garbage bags. Her husband says, "I was playing basketball with buddies. They can vouch for me." It turns out that when he went to the bathroom, he zipped off and killed her. So much real-life crime is depressing. Yet I write crime books.

Why crime? I began with short stories, moved into literary fiction, and now with Blood Drama and A Death in Vegas, I'm focusing on bad people doing very bad things. Why? And why don't I like bludgeoning shows?

The real-crime stories can be interesting, but the stories of bad marriages for me quickly became cliché. The husband or wife typically wants a) to cash in on a huge life insurance policy or b) wants to avoid a divorce because the surviving spouse will get the kids, split half an expensive estate, or both.

The motives for serial killers are rarely clear. A hatred of women? A sexual dysfunction? A twisted interpretation of the Bible? In novels, motivation is demanded, but real-life stories often don't sort it out. That makes for an unsatisfying drama. Also, a lot of these shows are simply out to prove that forensic science is amazing.

The crime novel genre's popularity cannot be denied. My mother, my wife, and my father-in-law all have all been voracious readers of mysteries and thrillers, not because they have an interest in law enforcement but because as stories, the drama can be intense. Often, a time element is involved. If so-and-so isn't caught, he'll kill again. The protagonist's life is at stake when confronting the killer or other antagonist. Questions need answering such as who did it and why?

I didn't fall into this because the genre is popular but because I ran out of personal experiences worth examining. After all, many of my short stories and first two novels were based on crazy things from my life. The Brightest Moon of the Century, for instance, was based in part on my moving from Los Angeles to an Alabama trailer park much out of curiosity. What's the South like? It became quite colorful.

I also teach fiction writing to college students, and traditional story structure demands four essential things: 1) a clear protagonist who has 2) a need or desire, and 3) something or someone stands in his way. 4) The stakes should be high. This works for all genres, but crime books as page-turners make these things crystal clear. When I ran out of personal stories, the challenge of this genre appealed to me. I could create a situation, and, like a huge puzzle, figure it out.

This doesn't mean I don't have a personal connection to the story. I always look for ways to connect my experiences. Blood Drama began, for instance, when I corrected my student papers nearly every day at a Starbucks in the lobby of a South Pasadena bank. One day it struck me: what if there were a robbery and I was taken hostage in a getaway?

A Death in Vegas was inspired by a couple I knew who had a beneficial bug company, and I visited their booth once at a Las Vegas convention. I saw models selling all sorts of things in booths and thought if my friends hired a model, she'd have to be a sexy lady bug. What if she turned up dead? Where?

I don't take the genre lightly. I ask people what they're reading, and sometimes I hear "Just a dumb mystery," said as if it's a guilty pleasure. They seem to be saying, "I should be reading literature, but this book is fun." I don't see the genre as dumb. My short stories have often had ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and my sense of absurdity sometimes slips through. My style fits crime.

Even though my mother had been an avid reader of mysteries in particular, I didn't get into it until I came across Raymond Chandler on my own. First, I liked seeing old Los Angeles where there had been bean fields and oil derricks on the way to Santa Monica. The other reason was that Chandler wasn't so much concerned about plot but enmeshed in character and theme, the very things that interested me. When I hit the end of The Big Sleep, and even though there seemed to be no reason for a chauffeur driving off of a pier, I was in awe. I raced through his other books. He showed me the genre was what you made of it.

I've since come to be enamored of novels by Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Patricia Cornwell, and a few others. My wife loves Lisa Gardner, too. A friend introduced me to a new author, John Lansing, whose The Devil's Necktie simply grabs. So did another novel by a newcomer, The Crack-Up by Eric Christopherson.

Over the years, I've come to see ordinary people mess up big time. They can be friendly but nice people who do terrible things. I love exploring the moral gray areas this shows. Crime can make it clear.

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Christopher Meeks writes stories that have a unique twist all his own. Whether short fiction, a drama, or his novels, each story, while serious, is layered with the odd. He teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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A Death in Vegas by Christopher Meeks

A Death in Vegas
Christopher Meeks
A Crime Thriller

The president of BenBugs, a company that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardening, discovers a young woman dead in his Las Vegas hotel suite. She had worked as a sexy lady bug at his convention booth — and he had nothing to do with her death.

While that's being investigated, the FBI raids his booth on a money-laundering scam that he knows nothing about, either. Soon, the coroner doesn't have good news. The police and FBI are against him — and his wife cannot be found. He flees to find the answers. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)


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