Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Robert Richter

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Robert Richter

We are delighted to welcome author Robert Richter to Omnimystery News today.

Robert's latest entry in his Cotton Waters series is Something To Die For (Oak Tree Press; January 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats), a collection of stories featuring the character, and we recently had the chance to spend some time with him talking about it.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to your mystery series.

Robert Richter
Photo provided courtesy of
Robert Richter

Robert Richter: Each title in this quartet of mysteries set on the Mexican Riviera begins with the word "Something", and this is actually the main character's name, or rather, nickname. A gringo expatriate in exile on the Mexican west coast, Cotton Waters is an illegal alien and ex-political activist from the 60s with old and unresolved political offenses at home. He thrives on empty tropical beaches and in Nayarit fishing villages, known to his cantina buddies as "Algo," meaning Something in Spanish. He spend time bodysurfing, fishing with the local folk, and reading Emerson and Thoreau on the Pacific shore. But in times of need he scrounges a lazy village living and a little beer money out of the Puerto Vallarta tourist trade as a gringo tour guide, a cultural consultant, or as a private hustler of a Mexican Riviera lost-and-found — helping people get lost or sometimes finding others, if the price is right or the client's cause worth the time and interest.

OMN: How has Cotton Waters changes over the course of the series?

RR: Each "Something" novel and story has a chronological place, but they can be read in any order. In the novels, which take place in 1972, 1983, and 1986, Cotton Waters is a young man and changes very little, except, hopefully, he gains some wisdom and insight along the way. The most recent book is a collection of Cotton Waters stories, which take place somewhere between 1990 and 2000. By then, Waters has definitely aged and he his feeling that aging in body and mind and trying to come to terms with not be the man in his prime that he once was.

OMN: Into which genre would you place your books?

RR: While I can call my novels mysteries and/or thrillers, such labels are limiting. I am a Mexico Writer, and that is my field of interest and study. I'm a Latin American historian, and each of my "Something" books is about some aspect of Mexican history and culture. It's just that I try to couch those subjects in a good story that keeps a reader turning the pages, and getting an insight into the people, the culture, and history of Mexico is an entertaining by-product of a good read.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the books?

RR: Over the last fifty years, I've spent a lot of time in Mexico. I made extensive stays when I was in my 20s, living in coastal fishing villages and making cantina buddies, fishing and surfing with friends. I learned Mexico life from its people. Cotton Waters' background is similar, but more extreme. The wonderful thing about creating a fictional character is that he or she may have an author's voice or persona, but the character can be "larger than life" so to speak, smarter, more athletic, more good looking, with skills and attributes worthy of a heroic character and a good story. While a good story is going on, my own experience and knowledge is really to be found in the background description in the scenes and in the history that the story is spun around. The stories are fiction, but all the action is set in real places in real time, and many characters are composites of people I've met. The history and cultural ambience are authentic, and really, so are the plots. These stories could happen to real people.

OMN: What specific authors or books influenced how and what you write today?

RR: The biggest influence on my writing the "Something" series of Cotton Waters mysteries was John D. MacDonald's series character Travis McGee. MacDonald was one of the great genre writers of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. His character, Travis McGee, is/was the same kind of unofficial detective do-gooder, the errant knight with a value system based in personal ethics as Cotton Waters. There were 18 Travis McGee books, I think, each with a different color in the title. So in a way, even my titles with their consistent word, I got from MacDonald. Also I liked the first-person narrative voice of that series, and I think that influenced my decision to write my own stories in first-person. I believe that method gives an on-the-scene sense of ambiance to the reader that helps put them inside the story.

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The author of ten books, including poetry, fiction, and regional history, Robert Richter has a forty-year relationship with Latin America, and that cultural geography inspires his work. In 2000 Richter won the Nebraska Arts Council's Literary Achievement Award for nonfiction, and in 2007, he was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Buenos Aires. Richter has also been a wheat farmer, substitute teacher, and tour guide in Latin America.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at RobertRichterAuthor.com and his author page on Goodreads.

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Something To Die For by Robert Richter

Something To Die For by Robert Richter

A Cotton Waters Mystery

Publisher: Oak Tree Press

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)

Cotton Waters is a gringo expatriate in exile on the Mexican west coast, an illegal alien and ex-political activist with old and unresolved legal problems in the U.S. Known to his cantina buddies as "Algo," or Something in Spanish, for years he's scrounged a lazy fishing village lifestyle and a little beer money out of the Puerto Vallarta tourist trade as tour guide, cultural consultant, and a private hustler of a Mexican Riviera lost-and-found — helping some people get lost and finding others — if the price is right or the client's cause worth the time and interest.

Something To Die For by Robert Richter. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.


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