Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Michael Nethercott Talks #Whodunit #Giveaway #mystery
LUCY BURDETTE: Some people just look and act as though they should be mystery writers--or that's what I thought when I first met Michal Nethercott in a small mystery bookstore in Brattleboro, Vermont. (SEE BELOW--doesn't he have the coolest author photo ever?) Turns out he doesn't only look the part, he writes it too. And we're delighted to host him today on the occasion of his second mystery, THE HAUNTED BALLAD.
MICHAEL NETHERCOTT: In my teenaged years I read a lot of Agatha Christie. A lot. Ever since my first encounter with Ten Little Indians, it was the whodunit aspect of her books that always kept me coming back. I won’t say that I never guessed the culprit, but, more often than not, I picked the wrong horse… and was happy to do so. Now, firmly into my post-teen years—very firmly—I myself have become a writer of mystery stories and novels. As such, I readily acknowledge Dame Agatha as a literary godmother of sorts. I take the whodunit-ness pretty seriously and like to offer the reader a heap of suspects with shadowy backgrounds and secret motives.
In my latest 1950s era novel The Haunting Ballad I’ve attempted to do just that. The death of a Greenwich Village “songcatcher” (folk song collector) leads my detectives Plunkett and O’Nelligan into a very deep suspect pool. The possible perpetrators include a sultry Beat poet, a blues-belting ex-con, a family of Irish balladeers (who may be IRA), a hundred-and-five-year-old Civil War drummer boy, and a prickly “ghost chanter” who sings ballads that she receives from the dead. And just to stir things up a bit, one suspect is a handsome, persuasive young folk singer who Plunkett's fiancée Audrey is enthralled by.
So, why do I—and a legion of other mystery readers—care so much about the who of the dunit? Well, perhaps there’s something about finding one’s self in the midst of a group of people who may or may not be what they seem. Or perhaps there’s something about knowing that, beneath a seemingly benign exterior, one (or more) of this crowd is concealing a figurative dagger (or maybe an actual one.) For me, there’s always been the additional interest in who didn’t do it. That is, I’ve always been sort of comforted at a mystery novel’s end to discover that Mrs. Pumbleshum or Colonel Winterwink was, after all, not a homicidal slayer. Even if one of their friends/family/colleagues was.
Besides the characters, of course, plot and setting have their place in the realms of suspense. A zesty, zigzagging plotline, replete with puzzling leads, desperate situations, and plentiful twists and turns, always makes for a good tale. Christie certainly delivered in this, even if, on occasion, her plot arcs left plausibility in the dust. As for setting, while not always central to a mystery’s storyline, it can certainly spice things up. Tony Hillerman’s Navajo West, Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, and Sara Paretsky’s Chicago are all fine examples of this. For The Haunting Ballad, I chose Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. In the 50s, the twin whirlwinds of the folk music revival and the Beat scene were converging and the Village was at the heart of it all. It was a swirling, quirky, dynamic world.
And where do you fall in the spectrum? Is it the who, the where, or the why that most beckons you in a tale of mystery and mayhem? And why? (I know, I know, that’s two whys, but don’t be over-influenced!)
Michael Nethercott will be part of or conversation today, and one lucky commenter will win a copy of his new book, "The Haunting Ballad."
Michael Nethercott is the author of the O’Nelligan/Plunkett mystery series. His debut novel The Séance Society (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne) is followed by the newly released The Haunting Ballad. Nethercott has won The Black Orchid Novella Award (for traditional mysteries), the Vermont Playwrights Award, the Nor’easter Play Writing Contest, the Vermont Writers’ Award, and the Clauder Competition (Best Vermont Play.) He has also been a Shamus Award finalist. His tales of mystery and the supernatural have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year, Thin Ice: Crime Stories by New England Writers, and the Crimestalkers Casebook.
Also find Michael on Facebook