June 21st, 2017

Published: Fifty-Third and Dorchester

I’ve been writing stories for a long time and composing them in my head even longer. This week, I released Fifty-Third and Dorchester on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook.

Reggie and Lupaster

Fifty-Third and Dorchester is a dark master detective mystery set on the South Side of Chicago near the University of Chicago. The eccentric mastermind, Chanco Lupaster, is blind. His assistant, Reggie Haskell, is the story’s ironic narrator and Lupaster’s eyes and hands. Reggie wise-cracks about doing all the work, but he stumbles without Lupaster.

It’s August, ninety degrees and humid on the South Side. The air conditioner is dying and Lupaster Investigations LLC is nearly broke. A beautiful black woman, Antika, comes to Lupaster Investigations headquarters at Fifty-Third and Dorchester with a dubious story of blackmail and a vaguely described New Peace Temple in a decaying suburb. Lupaster tries to put her off, but the prospect of a fee and Antika’s attractions capture Reggie, who blunders and is forced to save Lupaster by taking a bullet in his own leg from the phony blackmailer. Then a thug with an AK-47 sends Lupaster into a coma and Reggie is on his own. Two bombings and a dip in the fetid Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal lead to a final confrontation that reveals criminal activity that reaches far beyond Antika and her temple and anything Reggie had imagined. Although contemporary, the story evokes the era of classic noir detective fiction.

The characters in this novel have lived in my head for many years, occupying a setting that I first experienced when I went to the University of Chicago straight from a rural high school and stayed for two degrees and seven years. While I studied on the South Side, I was introduced to the Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective stories by my mentor, eventual PhD. advisor, and idol, Herrlee Creel. Herrlee, who probably would have punched me for the familiarity of calling him by his first name, was a great writer of clear and unpretentious prose. He wrote a New York Times bestseller on Chinese philosophy and is still remembered for the depth and clarity of his scholarship on early China. I wrote a senior thesis that he read and approved, but he took me aside and told me that I would never get anywhere if I did not learn how to write. His advice: read Rex Stout, write like Rex Stout. I read Rex Stout, and have tried ever since to write like Rex Stout.

My career has taken several turns since those great days on the South Side, but I have never stopped trying to write as Herrlee demanded. Prior to Fifty-Third and Dorchester, I published three books on computer software engineering and architecture, but with this book, I have returned to what I always have wanted to write. Lupaster, Reggie, Fellman, Sam, Theresa, Knuckles, and Diana are still in my head. I’m in the middle of writing another mystery in which they appear, and I have several short stories in various stages of completion that further document their lives. Rex Stout wrote over seventy Nero Wolfe novels and stories. I have a long way to go to meet that challenge, but who knows?

Free Short Story

To encourage you to take the plunge and purchase Fifty-Third and Dorchester, you can get a taste of the gang with The Interrupted Lunch by signing up with the Vine Maple Studio Friends in the  upper right corner of the page. The short story is an appetizer to the full course meal. Vine Maple Studio Friends will get occasional emails from the studio, announcing new publications and more free stuff.

I am also working on a Lupaster and Haskell iron-on t-shirt transfer for download. I am not a great graphic artist, but I am, I’ve been told, stubbornly original. I’ll make the t-shirt transfer available to Vine Maple Studio Friend when I’ve got something to be stubborn about.

I promise never, ever, to intentionally share your email address with anyone without your express consent. I stuck in a weasel word, “intentionally”, because nothing in this world is certain. I make every effort to run a secure site and I know a lot about cybersecurity, but I don’t have absolute control over the software and services I use on the site. Even the most secure and meticulously maintained site can be broken into by a determined and lucky miscreant. Anyone who tells you different is not informed, or is trying to mislead you.

The Ask

In 2017, the success of books depends on reviews. If you like Fifty-Third and Dorchester, write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Bibliocommons, practically anywhere. I’m begging for reviews. Be kind, but honest. If you don’t like something, say it. I’m stubborn, but I listen and I know that my work has improved by listening. I love compliments, but I listen to criticism.

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