Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Burning Desire



by J. R. Lindermuth

Though murders sometimes occur without apparent motivation in real life, readers of mysteries seem to prefer a motive for the crime.

The murders in previous books in my Sticks Hetrick series have resulted from the characters participation in other crimes. These have included the stealing of rare books, an insurance scheme involving race horses, theft of antiques from the Amish, identity theft and embezzlement.

This time I’ve chosen arson as the trigger, though the actual murder is only indirectly connected to that crime and the killer has his own motivation.

Ideas for novels come to writers from a variety of sources. In this particular case I’d been reading newspaper reports about some volunteer firemen who began torching properties to augment the number of fires to which they were called out. It sounds perverse but, based on my experience as a newspaper reporter, I can assure you this wasn’t a unique case. This has happened more than once.

But what initially sparked my interest in this case was a report of one of the firebugs having a play list of music to inspire his activities. I began inventing a pyromaniac who emulated this behavior. I had my son (more of a pop music fan than me) assist me in compiling a list of fire-related songs to motivate my character.

FBI statistics reveal arson increased 3.2 percent over the previous year in the first six months of 2012. That figure showed little or no change in 2013. This was a higher percentage than recorded for other serious crimes such as robbery, aggravated assault and larceny-theft.

The Internet makes researching for background on such a topic comparatively easy. I also had sources from my newspaper background, including police and fire marshals.

Daniel ‘Sticks’ Hetrick, my protagonist, is a retired small-town police chief who has also served with the Pennsylvania State Police. In the previous novels, he served as an unofficial consultant to his less experienced successor as police chief. I’ve now given him a new job as a county detective. This allows him to move back and forth in two jurisdictions.

Though Sticks is the main character, I’ve built an ensemble cast in the previous books and they’ve become popular with readers. These include Chief Aaron Brubaker, Hetrick’s protégés Officer Flora Vastine and her beau, Cpl. Harry Minnich, other members of the police department, the owner and wait-staff of a local diner and even a (somewhat) reformed thief and pool-shark.

The stories generally take place in the vicinity of Swatara Creek, a fictional rural community near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The plot of A Burning Desire opens with residents shaken by an outbreak of arson. At first the minor fires seem to be pranks, perhaps the work of juveniles. But when a murder occurs at the scene of a fire, the situation becomes more serious. As they investigate, troubling, dangerous people from their pasts put both Hetrick and Flora in increasing jeopardy. The author of 13 novels and a non-fiction history, J. R. Lindermuth is a retired newspaper editor and currently serves as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society. His two children and four grandsons do their best to keep him busy and out of trouble. When not writing, reading or occupied with family he likes to walk, draw, listen to music and learn something new everyday.

Though Sticks is the main character, I’ve built an ensemble cast in the previous books and they’ve become popular with readers. These include Chief Aaron Brubaker, Hetrick’s protégés Officer Flora Vastine and her beau, Cpl. Harry Minnich, other members of the police department, the owner and wait-staff of a local diner and even a (somewhat) reformed thief and pool-shark.

The stories generally take place in the vicinity of Swatara Creek, a fictional rural community near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The plot of A Burning Desire opens with residents shaken by an outbreak of arson. At first the minor fires seem to be pranks, perhaps the work of juveniles. But when a murder occurs at the scene of a fire, the situation becomes more serious. As they investigate, troubling, dangerous people from their pasts put both Hetrick and Flora in increasing jeopardy

_______________

The author of 13 novels and a non-fiction history, J. R. Lindermuth is a retired newspaper editor and currently serves as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society. His two children and four grandsons do their best to keep him busy and out of trouble. When not writing, reading or occupied with family he likes to walk, draw, listen to music and learn something new everyday.

11 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writer, J.R. It's great to have you join us here for the coming week.

Patricia Gligor said...

John,
Great post! I love your Sticks Hetrick series and I look forward to reading "A Burning Desire."

C.L. Swinney said...

Well done John. Love your work and love telling people about it. Great idea with your latest novel! Thanks for sharing with us :-)

Rosemary McCracken said...

I'm always interested in where authors' ideas come from. Your trigger, real-life volunteer firemen who torched properties, is a great place to start!

jrlindermuth said...

Thanks for the opportunity, Jean.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, J. R.,

Like you, I get a lot of my fiction ideas from real crime stories and then give them a fictionalized version. Faction makes for significant mysteries. Like what happened to the Maylay jet?

Roxe Anne Peacock said...

John, another wonderful post about writing. I love the Sticks Hetrick series.

Peter DiChellis said...

Thanks for posting this. I think inter-related crimes make some of the most interesting stories. Whether a second crime is committed to cover up the first or is simply an unintended consequence, it adds another layer to the mystery.

earlwstaggs said...

Very interesting, John. I watch a lot of true crime docudramas on TV and pick up story ideas from them. I recall one in which the arsonist turned out to be a highly regarded arson investigator. Best wishes for great success with A BURNING DESIRE.

john M. Daniel said...

John, as a former semi-professional singer of old standards, I'm fascinated by the arsonist's playlist of songs. One of the songs I used to sing was "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire." Speaking of arson, the title of my second Guy Mallon mysteries is "Vanity Fire." I look forward to reading "A Burning Desire."

James Callan said...

Good post, John. And your new novel certainly rings a bell for me. My CLEANSED BY FIRE has churches being burned and a man killed in one of the fires. So, here also, the police have to decide if the fires and the murder are linked. And as with you, the germ of the idea came from the news. Thanks for sharing with us.