Author of 23 books in the Joe Gunther mystery series, Archer Mayor has carved out a nice niche for himself as Mr.Vermont, at least to mystery readers. Gunther fans appreciate the research and the insider point-of-view Mayor brings to his police procedurals, most of which are set in small towns within or around Vermont.
Once you get to know Det. Gunther of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation and his team, you won’t forget them. As someone who lives just down the road a piece from his office in Brattleboro, Vermont, I can tell you the locals sleep better knowing Gunther and crew are on the job.
Here’s the short version of Archer Mayor’s bio, lifted from his webpage:Mayor—who was brought up in the US, Canada and France—was variously employed as a scholarly editor, a researcher for TIME-LIFE Books, a political advance-man, a theater photographer, a newspaper writer/editor, a lab technician for Paris-Match Magazine in Paris, France, and a medical illustrator. In addition to writing novels and occasional articles, Mayor gives talks and workshops all around the country, including the Bread Loaf Young Writers conference in Middlebury, Vermont, and the Colby College seminar on forensic sciences in Waterville, Maine. In addition, Archer is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, the publisher of his own backlist, a travel writer for AAA, and he travels the Northeast giving speeches and conducting workshops. He also has 25 years experience as a volunteer firefighter/EMT.
Archer writes one book a year, launching each one in the fall, before the holiday book-buying season. His next mystery, Paradise City, is scheduled for release in October.
The city in Paradise City is Northampton, Massachusetts, which sits in a region stretching roughly from Brattleboro VT to Springfield MA, dwarfing the population of the entire Green Mountain state. The story involves police from the fictional Tucker Peak VT, Northampton and Boston, as well as points in between. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “stings, surveillance, and interrogations all play a part in the effort to uncover a sophisticated, ruthless criminal operation. Fans of this first-rate procedural series will be satisfied.” (For the complete review, go here). This interview was conducted on February 2, 2012. How important is place to your novels, and why do you base them in Vermont? First, it’s where I live. Second, it’s a small state. I like the miniaturization. The more layers there are to remove [in the solution of a crime], the clearer it is how everything works. How the hell do you function when you have a bad guy and layers and layers of government [like we see in Law and Order]? You could choose to ignore those layers -- and some writers do -- but I think that’s too bad. Is the character Joe Gunther or the way he operates unique to Vermont?You'll notice that Joe always works as a team player and what he does is custom fit to Vermont, as it should be, but the procedures and protocols he follows are not unique. The police practices that he employs in Vermont change slightly in New Hampshire and Maine, for example, then a little more as you go away to other parts of the US. A Los Angeles cop could find his way around these books, though. No problem. How do you keep your characters fresh? They are their own characters. They’re alive and well, in my head. Joe and Gail and Sammy and Wally are real people, to me.
My exposure to these folks is year in and year out. I’ve known them almost 30 years. They are not extraordinary, but real people with real habits and I just chronicle their passage through life. Some of them do extraordinary things -- but don’t we all? – but these are not superheroes. I don’t need to stretch to give them life, I just have to be relatively consistent.
Will Joe Gunther and friends age as the series builds?
The characters will evolve slightly as is natural to every character but, no, Joe Gunther will never age.
Do you use your own experience in your books? How much are they based on real people and events?
I use some real names because people I don’t always know offer them to me [through auctions I run on my website]. My work gives me exposure to reality, heightens my understanding of situations and people, but I don’t transplant the details of an actual case.
People kill each other all the time. I have no interest in exploiting [real situations in which] people are still very upset. That seems cruel to me.
I write murder mysteries. I have a place to park things [I experience or learn through my work] but I’m not a historian. I make up my stories, but there can be cross references that don’t compromise confidentiality.
Do you use social media?
I have a website, but find Facebook and Twitter intrusive and costly in terms of time. I’m a private New England guy, but I understand that if I don’t use [social media], people are not going to buy my books. So, I have a love/hate relationship with all of that. If in fact I do hit the big time, I’ll shut the door if I can. I find it rude that people expect me to be anything but a private person.
What do you read?
Right now, I’m reading a book on Roman history. I don’t read murder mysteries. I don’t want to curl up with a mystery at the end of the day. I’ve had enough, so I read a lot of history books. I also like obscure books but I don’t get to read much. I don’t have time.
How do you maintain your privacy and sell books at the same time?
This is a world in which [a writer] can no longer behave like J.D. Salinger. He’d go broke today. So, you’re on Facebook, you tweet. We’ve entered a new world, the writer holds himself directly to the reader and the publisher is less a part of the relationship than ever.
How do you manage to write a book a year and still work at two jobs?
The reason I have three jobs is I’m broke like everyone else. [With three part-time jobs], I don’t have any benefits, so I work without a safety net. That means I have to work consistently. What advice do you have for new authors? Anybody can get published. Now the question is, how do you get noticed among readers? People say, I’ll just self publish then go out and create buzz. Right! How?
It used to be that about 60,000 titles published were published a year, but now it’s over a million. Only a tiny percent receive any marketing money. What about other 99 percent?
All that seems to matter today is the marketing. Isn’t that sad? Quality writing seems to have been forgotten. What about good copy editing, syntax and story lines? Writing is supposed to be music for the brain, not garbage that has to be sold.
I’ll never run out of things to write about. I’m engaged in a project with te Vermont Tourism Bureau to forge something for our mutual benefit. I sat down with them the other day to see what we could do together and, in 10 minutes, we came up with 45-60 names of local sites Joe Gunther has touched. He has covered the state like a bucket of water!
[See this story on CNN
for details.] How did the 2011 flood affect you?
I was working a criminal case and needed access to something in Wilmington and couldn’t get there. I’ll definitely do a book off the flood, maybe for next year.
For more on Archer Mayor and his books--
Website and blog: http://www.archermayor.com/
Looking for the perfect gift? Why not send your favorite bibliophile a new book written by one of our friends or readers? Or why not read one yourself?
As you'll see, this is a robust list of seasoned -- even bestselling -- authors. You are bound to find something you like here.
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Go to your local bookstore or follow the grey hyperlinks below to purchase a book or get more information. If you contact an author through a hyperlink, please let him or her know you linked from here.
Archer MayorThis book by mystery writer Archer Mayor is the 22nd in his Vermont-based, Joe Gunther series and the first to make it to the New York Times bestseller list. A fan – and Archer has many, including this reader – might assume Brattleboro, Vermont is the murder capital of the US. As a neighbor, I am thankful the Bratt PD has loaned Det. Joe Gunther to the famed (but fictional) Vermont Bureau of Investigation. With Gunther and his crew of assorted misfits on the job, we sleep better. Available at your local bookstore, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or at a discount from the author at http://archermayor.com/bookstore.htm. Watch for an exclusive interview with Archer, coming soon on Birds on a Wire Blog.
Death BedLeigh Russell
This police procedural is bestselling-author Leigh Russell’s fourth book highlighting DCI Geraldine Steel’s excellent work at keeping southeast England safe for all. If Death Bed is anything like her earlier novels, you can expect mucho murder and mayhem before Steel’s crack detective unit steps in. The book will be released for Kindle on December 19 and in print in May 2012 through Amazon UK. For a signed copy, buy through http://leighrussell.co.uk/. Scroll below for an extensive interview with Leigh.
The BureauConnie Corcoran Wilson
This creepy short story previews Connie’s second collection of horror short stories, a sequel to "Hellfire & Damnation," published in 2010. Her next collection is scheduled for release as an E-book in 2012. The Bureau is available now from Amazon for Kindle. Contact the author for more information.
Koontown Killing KaperBill Campbell
As he describes it, Bill Campbell’s third novel -- a satirical mystery -- is “one of the most outrageous, most offensive, most hilarious books you may ever read.” I’ve read two of his earlier works and they certainly lived up to that promise. And, all were great reads! KKK is available now as an E-book at Smashwords, http://bit.ly/rO0XlQ
. For more information, follow Bill, his musings, work and podcasts at www.facebook.com/groups/118751508175839/
The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats
Connie Corcoran Wilson
A full-color, illustrated book for children ages 3 to 7, explaining how to get along in life, told in Dr. Seuss-like rhyme. Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in print and as E-book.
Point to Happy
Miriam Smith and Afton Fraser
This interactive book is for children on the autism spectrum who benefit from visual support. Dozens of bright, friendly photographs are compelling to look at and easy to understand. The text is clear and direct. The parent reads, the child points. As much fun as a game, it's a joyful experience to share together.
Laughing Through Life
Connie Corcoran Wilson
Humorous essays and anecdotes about school-teaching, child-rearing and politics. Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in print and as E-book.
The Roses at the End of the RoadPat Leuchtman
An award-winning garden writer’s collection of lively essays about life in a rural town, on and off her precious rose walk. For the rose-lover or anyone who has ever dreamed of living on a dead-end road at the top of a mountain in New England. Ask your local bookstore to order it for you or buy directly from the author.
Where Am I Going?
Moving from Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorer
A thought-provoking memoir about spirituality, family, love and finding true inner happiness by the founder of Pink Crosses, an organization that helps the families of the more than 600 women who have been murdered over the past decade in Juarez, Mexico. Wife, mother, bestselling author, salsa dancer in training and ex-corporate drone, Michelle conducts workshops in which participants learn how to tap into a deep well of spirituality, serenity, and purpose. She also hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio. Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Ghostly Tales of Route 66
, Volumes I, II and III
Connie Corcoran Wilson
Connie Wilson recounts mysterious happenings along the famed highway, state by state. Available in paperback from Quixote Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at http://bit.ly/vOi7Bd
Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of exclusive interviews with authors who happen to follow this blog.
Five years ago, Leigh Russell was a mom and special education teacher in southern England. Today, she’s still a mom, but also is an internationally known, bestselling mystery writer, with three successful books published and a fourth slated for release on Christmas Day. She says she already is working on three more books for No Exit Press, all part of the same series.
Cut Short, Dead End and Road Closed introduce DCI Geraldine Steel, a protagonist unlike Jane Tennison of the PBS series Prime Suspect, Olivia Benson of SVU or Jane Whatshername of the NBC’s new Prime Suspect knock off. Geraldine is younger and probably better trained than all of them but, like her fictional colleagues, she often finds herself swimming against the current in the tough environment she works in.
These are really good reads. Without hesitation, I would recommend any or all to anyone who loves British police procedurals, or is looking for some real escape fiction. Her next book, Death Bed, is available for pre-order now for download on December 25 to Kindle and perhaps other e-readers. It also will be available in hardcover in all the usual places. For more information about Leigh or any of her books, go to http://leighrussell.co.uk/
Q: What gave you the courage to leave teaching and jump into writing full time?
A: I have not yet abandoned teaching completely. This term I am teaching a crime fiction unit to sixth form, which is great fun! I never planned my jump into writing. I wrote the story of Cut Short and the Geraldine Steel series really took off in a way I never anticipated. It’s very exciting!
Q: What are some important books on your personal bookshelf? Who is your favorite novelist? What mysteries do you read?
A: Some personal favourites are Dickens, Edith Wharton, the Brontës, Jane Austen and, among more contemporary authors, I really enjoy Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguru because they write so beautifully. Of course I also read a lot of crime novels and my favourites are too many to list. I mainly read UK authors, but do admire Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child and Tess Gerritsen.
Q: Do you borrow elements from the news to develop plots?
A: My plots are never based on true life incidents. All my stories are flights of imagination. I start with a question -- what if? -- and start speculating about dark possibilities. It might sound strange, but I find real crimes too disturbing to use in my fiction which is, after all, a form of entertainment.
Q: Two of your books open in the middle of the commission of a crime. Do you work out all the elements of your story lines before you begin, or do start with the crime and go where the Ouija board takes you?
A: I know the beginning and the ending of my books before I start writing, and do try to work out the journey between the two in advance. That said, often a character will lead me along a slightly different path, or a plot twist will occur to me as I’m writing, and I follow that. So the books are planned yet at the same time they do develop as the story unfolds.
Q: In all three books, I found the police were a bit slow tracking down the culprits. If that isn't my imagination, is it intentional?
A: My readers tend to be one step ahead of the police in my books, because the reader is sometimes privy to information the police don’t yet know. That can add to the suspense, as the reader can see the police going along the wrong path, but is helpless to put them right. Of course, readers can be misled from time to time as well, but my books are “why-done-its” rather than “who-done-its.” The characters and their motivation fascinate me more than the intricacies of plot.
Q: Where and how did you learn about police procedure? Do you have professional sources? If so, how did you develop them?
A: I do a lot of research, and have a lot of wonderful contacts on the police force. I have met them since my books were published, and many of them are fans of my books.
Whenever my books require detailed knowledge, I ask for help. It is vital to have professional sources and I solicit help from all sorts of people, not just the police. Many of my advisors are leading experts in the fields of DNA, forensic anthropology, forensic medicine or psychiatry in prisons. I have spent an afternoon with local fire officers, and with market traders, finding out about their work. I was recently invited to meet a murder investigation team, and have been invited to visit a police station, both of which were fascinating.
Q: Are any characters based on people you have met or know?
A: My characters are never based on real people. I don’t know where they come from. They are not planned in advance but appear on the page as I write. They really just evolve. They must be composites of people I’ve met, snippets I’ve seen and heard, or read, but their creation is not a conscious process.
Q: Unlike some successful authors, you are extremely responsive and available to your readers. Why is that?
A: These days I think many successful authors are willing and happy to interact with their readers. With so many other demands on our time in the modern world, it’s important to encourage readers. Apart from that, I really enjoy meeting people. They always interest me. And it’s lovely meeting fans of my books!