Authors are assigned to panels at these conferences and we looked at one another when we met trying to find the commonality between us. Is it that we all struggle with the problem of getting our protagonist in and out of danger. We all have to find a believable motivation for our protagonist to pursue the villain.
Robert Spiller, author of the Bonnie Pinkwater mystery series is as bright and sprightly as his main character. “Bonnie’s big mouth gets her into these fixes,” he replied. What gets her out when she’s in the crunch nose-to-nose with the villain?” As a high-school math teacher, Bonnie’s former pupil, the Sherriff that she calls “youngster” can be counted on.
Keith Raffel was our panel’s big stakes Washington, terrorism, and thriller writer. In Drop by Drop his recent book, the protagonist is a history professor and a one-time intelligence advisor. Reluctantly his protagonist returns to Washington after a terrorist attack kills his wife, which gives his plot a strong personal motivation to involve himself in international intrigue.
Audrey Braun writes an everywoman smart sleuth whose husband morphs into a dangerous stranger who abandons her in a Mexican jungle. In A Small Fortune her protagonist faces extraordinary circumstances with only the wit and intelligence she possesses to survive. While that limits a story, Audrey enjoys the challenge of extricating her character who doesn’t know the language and must learn quickly which allies she can trust.
Every protagonist needs allies, even the superhuman type who speak Chinese, can go without sleep for three days, and eat snakes to survive. You all know the kind of hero I mean and that that’s not what Robert O’Hanesson writes. He writes smart and tough.
His Delta Forces guy in Possum Belly Queen is a guy who’s not eager for more adventure; however, the kidnapping of a member of his own family draws him back into the
dark carnival world to pit himself against a human trafficker.
As moderator, my role was to highlight these panelist’s books and provide an entertaining 45-minute look behind the curtain to show how authors drive their plots and find believable motives to enter the world of murder and mayhem.
For my own mysteries, No Dice and Rip-Off, featuring Detective Dave Mason of the Santa Monica Police Department, it’s easy. Murder finds him.
Next year’s Left Coast Crime Conference will be held in Colorado Springs the last weekend of March 2013. Think about attending.