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Coming (hopefully) by Halloween, the rerelease of Second Hand Goods…
And in November, new and print editions of The Compleat Kepler…
Both covers courtesy of the lovely and talented Li’l Sis, Jennette Marie Powell.
For starters, I did Bad Religion with a print edition, my first print book in eight years. Next up will be Road Rules. I never liked the formatting on Road Rules, and the cover has too much pixelation for my taste. So I’ve revamped the cover, redid the formatting, and will upload the book at the beginning of August.
I also plan to right a grievous wrong as I did not properly credit J.D. Rhoades for his introduction to the book. So, as you can see by the new cover, I’ve fixed that. It will show up when the various ebook pages are updated as well. And finally, there will be a print edition. No, I haven’t sold very many copies of Bad Religion in print. In fact, Kindle seems to be the preferred format. But there is very little cost up front for CreateSpace, none if you do an electronic proof. So why not?
Come Labor Day weekend, a reformatted version of Northcoast Shakedown will appear, also with a new print edition. Jennette Marie Powell has been working on new covers for NCS, along with its follow-up, Second Hand Goods. Both books will have print editions as well, with Second Hand, barring any delays, appearing in early October.
Come Halloween, I will be putting out a print edition of The Compleat Kepler as well. So, by Christmas, you can have Nick Kepler on all the dead trees you want.
And finally, in December, the non-Kepler shorts will appear in a collection called The Compleat Winter. No, I don’t have a cover yet, but I do have a cover concept. I also need to collect the stories and put them into proper ebook and print formats.
In the meantime, we’ll be having a contest for Bad Religion. Stay tuned as I will announce it first on Twitter. Just follow @authorjimwinter and keep your eyes open. The contest will be announced this Friday.
And so we have reached the end, 13 tales of crime from America’s North Coast. In them, Nick Kepler has taken down an unstable cop threatening two of his fellow officers, made a couple of domestic abusers disappear, solved a decade old murder, nabbed a sexual predator, watched the events of 9/11 while chasing a fugitive in an airport, and even disarmed a gun-wielding maniac in the nude. To say Nick Kepler leads an interesting life is an understatement.
The events in this collection start in 1999 and end a month after those in Northcoast Shakedown, set in the summer of 2002. So what’s next?
For starters, there is a short story called “Gypsy’s Kiss,” a sort of sequel to “Roofies.” In it Gypsy informs Nick that she is finally getting out of the sex trade. And she wants Nick to be her final client.
Then there is Bad Religion. Nick is hired by a mega-church to find out where all the money’s going. One of the people getting ripped off is a known Russian mobster. And he’s not even one of the crooks involved.
Beyond that, I haven’t decided. I have a story outlined call Suicide Solution, wherein a friend of Nick’s commits suicide after betting his and his wife’s retirement money on a shady deal to redevelop an abandoned amusement park. But will it be a Kepler story? I originally started on this in 2005, when it looked like Second Hand Goods would hit bookstores the following spring. I had the entire Kepler series mapped out, and I figured Nick would be only a couple years behind the calendar when each book debuted. Oh, if I only knew!
One of the reasons I’m rethinking this is that Nick is fixed to the calendar. That might not be important to you, but the author needs to be able to undo something like that before he or she writes. So Suicide Solution would have to take place in May of 2005 if I kept up Nick’s established timeline. I really never liked the “ageless” character. I can’t see Nick being 35 in 2003 and 36 in 2013.
I can, however, see another character taking over. And the setting for this one offers new story ideas as well. We’ll see. For now, know that there are two Keplers in the pipeline. Coming soon.
The last completed story from the Deep Purple Project takes its inspiration from the last album of Deep Purple’s original run, Come Taste the Band. One of that album’s signature songs was “Lady Luck.” All I needed was the title. It would involve casinos.
But casinos did not exist in Ohio at the time. Here in Cincinnati, that was irrelevant. Drive west out US 50 or I-275, and you arrive in Indiana. There are three riverboat casinos within fifty miles of downtown Cincinnati. Not good for Cleveland. My septuagenarian aunt informed me that she had to go to West Virginia, Michigan, or even Canada to play her slots when this was written. (Ohio now has four casinos.)
So Nick was going to have to hit the road. He would have to go look for a husband who absconded with the kids’ college fund to count cards. At the time, I had just read books by Steve Hamilton and Laura Lippman that inspired a couple of story elements. Steve writes about the area around Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which has several Indian casinos. That made the perfect place for Kepler to go on a wild goose chase. Frustrated, Nick consults the element I got from Laura’s By a Spider’s Thread. In that novel, Tess is part of an Internet group where female private investigators share information. It wasn’t much of a stretch to think there were other such groups for PI’s or that Nick would use it. So on the group Nick consults, a colleague from Cincinnati complains about a guy at Louisville’s casino (really in Indiana as Kentucky has yet to legalize non-track gambling) It sounds like his errant husband, and we pick up the story at Lawrenceburg, Indiana’s Argosy Casino (now Hollywood Casino).
I’d actually never been in the old Argosy, but I knew the area well enough, including the extended parking. I actually used Belterra Casino (about forty miles west of Lawrenceburg) as a model. I also decided to make this more interesting than just a missing husband story. I had just seen the movie Rounders, where Ed Norton and Matt Damon play two hustling poker players who get into hock with a Russian nicknamed KGB. A lot of illegal poker games are played in every city, including Cleveland. If our missing husband upset the apple cart by not being the mark some seedy thug wanted him to be, he would likely also have someone looking for him.
The story starts out in the Cincinnati area, where I’ve lived since 1991, and follows the normal route to Cleveland. Even the truckstop where Nick finally phones his client after dealing with the muscle and the husband once and for all, is a standard pit stop for anyone heading north.
It’s also the only story in this collection that takes place after Northcoast Shakedown. I tried to work in Elaine, but the story required some judicious trimming. Still, it brings Nick into the period between Northcoast and Second Hand Goods.
This story was originally written for an anthology called Sex, Lies, and Private Eyes, edited by Michael Bracken. Unfortunately for Michael and the rest of us who contributed, the publisher pulled the plug in a fit of reorganization. So after two years of waiting, the story reverted back to yours truly. I turned around and submitted it to Thrilling Detective. Needless to say, editors Gerald So and Kevin Burton Smith were happy to have a story that was already largely edited by the time it came over the transom.
When it was accepted, one of the first things Kevin told me was that Kepler does a damn fine Humphrey Bogart in this one. And with the last line in the story, I have to agree.
The original impetus for this story was sex. Now, Nick has no problem hooking up, as evidenced by Northcoast Shakedown and Second Hand Goods. In the latter, he not only is seduced by his client, but he and Elaine… Well, maybe I’ll wait until Bad Religion is released to tell you more about that.
But sex was never central to the story, except maybe in “Roofies” (which was about sexual assault). The anthology had “sex” right in the title, so this story was going to be about sex. Since I was doing these shorts chronologically, this story ended up occurring about a month before Northcoast Shakedown. In that one, Nick is meeting with Tanya, a witness to one of his cases, at his favorite watering hole. A red-headed waitress named Audrey gives Nick a dirty look for bringing this glamorous blonde into “her” bar. I decided to build on that dirty look.
I’d attempted to do a couple of stories about Nick and Audrey before, never successfully. When this story came about, with sex as its reason for being, I decided that Audrey had always had a crush on Nick. But this being a crime story, there needed to be a crime. But did the crime need to happen before the story began? This was not a mystery. It was noir, and there is nothing more noir than a divorced man who doesn’t understand that his marriage is not only over, but it’s over by court decree. So Audrey marches into the bar, divorce papers in hand, very hungry to devour a man. It just so happens Nick is game and agrees to be Audrey’s dessert.
It’s not unknown that ex-husbands (and ex-wives and ex-lovers) often stalk those who dumped them. Audrey’s ex is one such unbalanced person and sneaks into his old house, gun in hand, ready to teach a lesson to his “unfaithful” wife and the man encroaching on his “property.” Oh, friends and neighbors, this is not something Nick Kepler tolerates, not even when he’s caught in the nude at gunpoint. He manages to subdue the wayward ex and proceeds, with considerably less guilt than before, to repeat some of the events of “A Walk in the Rain.” Yes, our wayward ex-husband goes into the trunk, but he’s alive for the trip to a remote beach out near Cedar Point, the coaster mecca 60 miles west of Cleveland. There, Nick releases him from the trunk, but, at gunpoint, tells him to walk to Canada. It’s night. It’s freezing. It’s Lake Erie. Our boy will drown before he even reaches the breakwall. Nick relents and strands him out in the middle of nowhere, then dumps his car on the freeway.
But was Audrey just after a good time? Or did she know her ex would come after her if she brought a man home? Was there a reason she decided to sleep with a man with a reputation for bringing the abuse back to abusers?
This title immediately suggested a sequel to “A Walk in the Rain,” where the consequences of Nick’s actions come back to haunt him. In the original, Nick’s friend Angie kills Joe Kopinsky, her abusive ex, after getting his gun away from him. Rather than face a grilling by the prosecutor, she convinces Nick to make Joe disappear. Nick does so and admits that, had Angie not killed him, he would have.
But did Joe have family? Wouldn’t someone miss him? Someone does, and he decides to avenge his brother’s death. There’s a whole section of Medina County where Nick (as well as yours truly) grew up that, at least in the early 2000’s, was still mostly farmland. And this was the perfect place for Joe Kopinsky’s brother to employ some painful persuasion techniques on Nick. He wants Angie. He’s convinced Angie killed Joe, but Angie’s good at keeping a low profile. She only emerges in public places when she’s in Cleveland and stays out of sight the rest of the time.
I had to walk a fine line with this one, which was written for the old Hardluck Stories ezine. I didn’t want it to become torture porn. Fortunately, Andy Kopinsky had many of the same problems his late brother Joe had. It gave Nick the leverage to manipulate him into getting careless.
Originally, when I had the entire series mapped out, I planned for the final Kepler novel to bring Nick full circle. His final case would be a direct result of “A Walk in the Rain,” complete with an ambiguous ending of a wounded Nick cradled by Jackie Bouchaine (Northcoast Shakedown, Second Hand Goods) and saying, “I got him.” Fade to black. Did he die?
Did Jimmy in Quadrophenia? Only the reader would know for sure.