Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Marcia Talley--Mile High Murder



DEBORAH CROMBIE: One of the many perks of being part of Jungle Red Writers is having the opportunity to showcase your friends--especially when they have a new book! Marcia Talley and I met at Malice Domestic in...mumble mumble--a LONG time ago! Seriously, that would have been around 1994, right, Marcia? We were both newly minted authors then, and we have been friends and brainstorming buddies ever since. So I am more than thrilled to bring you Marcia and her newest Hannah Ives novel, MILE HIGH MURDER.
 

MARCIA TALLEY: I live in Maryland where marijuana has recently become available for medical purposes and where the legislature is actively considering legalizing the weed for recreational use. To date, nine U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia allow the recreational use of cannabis, but the plant is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug – along with heroin and cocaine – and as such, is against federal law. Banks that are part of the Federal Reserve System are prohibited from handling “drug money,” therefore in the states where it is legal, it is largely a multi-million dollar all cash business. Bags of marijuana lying around, I thought.  Sacks of money. What could go wrong?


During my research, I became fascinated by cannabis culture, that is to say the businesses that have sprung up, particularly in western states like Colorado, Oregon and Washington where they thrive, as a result of legalization. Canna-tourism is huge. Guests stay in “bud and breakfasts,” weederies sprawl over many acres and provide Disney-style tours, and (taking a page from the wine industry) restaurants offer food and cannabis parings.  At marijuana shops like Starbuds, Karmaceuticals, and Grateful Meds, budtenders are available to help you choose the perfect weed for what ails you.

The variety of products infused with cannabis is staggering.  Edibles like Berry Bomb Bites, Honey Pot, Mystical Blueberry Jam, Herba Buena Tea and Ganja Grindz Coffee should start your day off on a high note.  There are thousands of topical lotions and balms – Hannah can’t resist the Speakeasy Lip Balm.  Even your dog can mellow out on Bark Avenue Doggie Treats.


What could be more fun than sending Hannah and her friend, Maryland state Senator Claire Thompson, to a “bud and breakfast” in Denver, the Mile High City, to join a diverse group of pot pilgrims and medical refugees? Naturally, one of the group turns up dead, and a closer inspection of the body reveals the victim had been traveling under a false identity …?


I already hear you asking about the research I did for this one!  Let’s just say, quoting former president Barack Obama, “I inhaled frequently; that was the point.”

Research can be hell, folks!

DEBS:  That quote cracks me up. I remember we talked about this book at Bouchercon a few years back.  It sounded like a winning plot then, and how great that Publishers Weekly agrees. Mile High Murder is "witty and well-constructed,” they say and, “Fair-play clues lead to a surprising motive behind the murder [in this] timely and illuminating trip into the often befuddling world of marijuana legislation.”  

Booklist likes it, too.  “As the … series approaches its twentieth anniversary, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Hannah [is] a woman who’s seen darkness in her own life but who hasn’t let it change who she is ... a sympathetic and likable protagonist, the kind of person we might like spending time with … [T]he mystery she solves here is a very entertaining one ... and its solution is both surprising and memorable.”

And, of course, one of the reasons I adore Hannah Ives is that reading Hannah is like sitting down across the table from Marcia with a cup of tea. (Or a glass of wine... Or...)

As you wait for your copy of MILE HIGH MURDER to arrive, please enjoy this excerpt:

FROM CHAPTER 4:
We’d been waiting outside the terminal for no more than five minutes when a long, white limousine that had been idling a few hundred yards away swept into an opening created by the departure of a yellow Hertz van and eased soundlessly to a stop. The vehicle seemed to go on forever, so long that its hood would reach our B&B hours before its trunk. I counted five windows, back to front. A logo painted on the passenger-side door read Happy Daze Tours, its letters curved in a semicircle under a colorful graphic of a five-fingered marijuana leaf superimposed over a bell.

‘Let me guess,’ I said.

Claire laughed. ‘Our chariot awaits.’

'What’s with the bell?’ I asked, referring to the logo.‘

'That’s the name of the B and B we’re staying in. Bell House.’

In Colorado these days, B&B stood for ‘bud and breakfast’ more often than not. Serious cannatourists flocked to such private establishments, the only ones where smoking, weed or otherwise, was permitted on the premises.

We watched as the chauffeur climbed out carrying a whiteboard that read Thompson in black marker pen.

'That would be me,’ Claire yelled above the noise of the traffic, thumbing her chest.

The driver grinned, revealing a row of impossibly white teeth. ‘Welcome to Denver,’ he said.

‘You must be Austin Norton,’ she said.

‘It’s the shirt. It always gives me away.’

Under an embroidered leather vest that flapped loosely at his sides, Norton wore a black T-shirt that read: IT’S 4:20 SOMEWHERE. He’d belted the shirt neatly into a pair of blue jeans that had been pressed into a sharp crease. I guessed he was around fifty. An aging hippie, I thought. His hair, prematurely silver, was tied back in a low ponytail.

‘Are we waiting for anybody?’ I smiled into his eyes, but saw only my own reflection in his mirrored sunglasses.

‘Nope,’ he said. ‘You’re the last.’ He took our bags and somehow managed to fit them, like pieces to an intricate puzzle, into a trunk already crammed with luggage. Then he held open the door, stood aside and invited us in.

The last time I’d been in a stretch limo had been with a guy named Ron at my high-school prom. This limo, too, had a bar – stocked with designer water – and circular bench seating. But there the resemblance ended. In the Happy Daze limo, LED lights pulsed green, like Kryptonite, turning Claire’s red jacket a dirty shade of gray. A wide-mouthed glass jar containing frosty buds of marijuana took pride of place on a low, central table.

A young guy holding a glass pipe scooted over to make room for us. ‘Welcome to the Mile High City,’ he said as we cut our way through the smog. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and a captain’s hat, soft and faded from repeated laundering, perched at a jaunty angle over his crewcut.

Claire eased into her seat, inhaled and sighed. ‘Ah, this is what I’m talking about!’

As for me, I tried not to breathe too deeply. All my fellow passengers seemed to be smoking something: the guy with the glass pipe; a young couple, their blond heads touching, sharing a hookah like a cream soda with two straws; two women sucking on vape pens. I understood about people going on wine tours of Napa or Sonoma, but they’re not opening bottles of merlot the minute they leave baggage claim. Still, it must be a relief to get high without being hassled by the cops.

‘You trip out early in Denver,’ the young guy said, as if reading my mind. He took a hit from his pipe, held his breath and closed his eyes.


Marcia Talley is the author of MILE HIGH MURDER and fifteen previous novels featuring Maryland sleuth, Hannah Ives. A winner of the Malice Domestic grant and an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel, Ms. Talley won an Agatha and an Anthony Award for her short story "Too Many Cooks" and an Agatha Award for her short story "Driven to Distraction." She is author/editor of two star-studded mystery collaborations, NAKED CAME THE PHOENIX and I’D KILL FOR THAT, and her short stories appear in more than a dozen magazines and anthologies. She divides her time between Annapolis, Maryland and a quaint Loyalist cottage in the Bahamas.

DEBS: Here's more about MILE HIGH MURDER:

It’s a fact that some of the cancer support group survivors Hannah Ives works with take marijuana. Recreational use of the drug may be illegal in Maryland, but a few patients, like Maryland State Senator Claire Thompson, are prescribed it on medical grounds. Claire has co-sponsored a Cannabis Legalization Bill and invites Hannah to be part of a fact-finding task force that testifies before the Maryland State Senate.

Before long, Hannah is in Denver, Colorado – the Mile High City – staying at a B&B with a group of pot pilgrims and medical refugees. But when one of the group is found dead, and a closer inspection of the body reveals the victim had been traveling under a false identity, Hannah is plunged into a dangerous cocktail of deception, drugs and death.

Stop in and chat with Marcia, who will be joining us from her "Loyalist cottage in the Bahamas." Sigh... 

PS: And she will answer questions about her "research."


45 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the new book, Marcia . . . Hannah’s latest adventure is certainly a timely one . . . .
    Although several states seem to be considering legalizing marijuana for the income they believe it will generate, I wonder if there’s a rise in the crime rate associated with this legalization?

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    1. Actually, it's the opposite, Joan. There's so much crime from opiod addiction, which is horrible right now. States with legal marijuana have seen crime rates go down, because it's a legal alternative, and is not addictive.

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  2. What a fun premise, Marcia! I don't know how I have missed reading Hannah Ives up to now, but it's clearly a lack I must remedy right away. We'll be in Colorado in September. I can't smoke anything (asthma) but am looking forward to sampling some edibles. ;^) Did you sample any favorites?

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    1. The brownies are the best! They are made with infused hemp butter. In Amsterdam, they are called "space cakes." LOL.

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  3. Best of luck with this,Marcia, and I am looking forward to reading it.

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  4. Welcome Marcia, and congrats on the new book! 20 books in a series is amazing! Tell us how you keep your characters and stories fresh--both for yourself, the writer, and for readers?

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    1. I wish I knew! Giving Hannah fresh adventures and mixing up her "side kicks" a bit certainly helps. The book I'm working on now is what happens when Hannah's DNA test from Ancestry.com comes back with totally unexpected results.

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  5. Wow, Marcia, you are such a role model and such an inspiration. Truly, in an industry that’s incredibly tough, we are authors come and go and careers evaporate, you have been such a stalwart and such proof that talent and determination can succeed! Plus, Reds, Marcia is incredibly generous to follow authors… I am proof of that! Yes, you lead the most adventurous life ever.How much of your life is taken up with writing?
    And congratulations!

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    1. Not as much as it should be, I guess. I'm just back from spending most of the day snorkeling with the grandkids on a reef off Firefly Resort on Elbow Cay. At lunch, I had a mo-tea-to with an umbrella in it. Perhaps a nap now? LOL.

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  6. Marcia, welcome to Jungle Reds! I met you at Malice Domestic in 2016! I missed seeing you, Deborah. I totally understand the need for medical marjuana. Though I think they should not be allowed to drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery while using marjuana.

    On cold medications for example, they always warn you Not to operate heavy machinery while using the cold medicine.

    Could that cash be donated to charity?

    Congratulations on the new book!

    Diana

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    1. Sure the cash could be donated to charity, just as likely as big pharma donating their profits, which are huge.

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    2. When Ohio had a ballot initiative on decriminalizing marijuana, the plan was for 12 Republicans to have a monopoly on growing sites--which would sell the marijuana wholesale to licensed shops, etc. The Republicans promised (wink, wink) that they would use "a portion" of their profits to fund research, etc. The initiative was defeated. I think the Republicans really believed that smokers would be so giddy at the thought of legal weed that they (and the rest of us) would overlook that monopoly part of the deal.

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    3. Diana, believe it or not there was an exhaustive study by the National Transportation Safety Board of the effect of marijuana on drivers. The only serious effect what that stoned drivers tended to drive very ... very ... slowly. TRUE!! It is dangerous when mixed with alcohol, however, according to the study.

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  7. Kudos Marcia, and welcome to JRW. I'm thinking of all that money organized crime made from the sale and distribution of marijuana, and that its a miracle, right up there with enacting stringent gun reform, that it is legal even for medical purposes anywhere.

    As a former caregiver of patients with AIDS and cancer, I can attest to its efficacy in relieving pain and nausea, better than most anything else on the market. When I work in AIDS hospices in San Francisco, we passed it out with elan, and than medicine cabinet smelled wonderful.

    The only downside I see to recreational use is that terrible plague, the munchies. Not that I would know about it myself, not me. The big kids told me about it.

    Remembering that brownie recipe with nostalgia.

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    1. Ann, yes, it's really too bad I'm not eating sugar...

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    2. The number of food items that can be infused with TCP is mind-boggling! One of the characters in my book is a chef who specializes in infusions. I had such fun designing the menus for my characters to eat at the B&B -- and frozen grapes serve as "chasers."

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  8. My daughter lives in Colorado, and I've experienced some of this same phenomenon.

    Have to leave right now, but I'll try to weigh in later. The economy there is booming, but not from the reason you'd think.

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  9. Hi, Marcia! So nice to see you here, and congratulations on the new book. There was just a piece in the paper about how people in apartments are having a hard time managing the fallout from legal marijuana -- talk about second-hand smoke. The law of unintended consequences.

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    1. Jay, my sister has encountered this very problem. She doesn't care that her neighbors smoke, but they smoke so much that it permeates the air in her apartment where she lives with her three kids. Nothing like heading off to middle school smelling of weed!

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  10. Hi Marcia! I think I remember I offered to come with you on your research trip...

    Rick went to the Mile High conference a couple of years ago who was interested in starting a business if it becomes legal in Texas. He said it was incredibly interesting, and that people don't realize how many subsidiary business there are. Growing marijuana these days is a science as well as big business. We'll see if even conservative Texas can resist the temptation to bring some of that business into the state.

    I can't wait to read Mile High Murder--my copy is on the way. We know you're in the Bahamas now, but you are going to Malice, right?

    And I know Marcia will be at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg because she's my roomie:-) I see lots of brainstorming in our future...

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    1. Believe it or not, a huge percentage of the canna-tourists in Colorado are over 50. And a large number of them come from Texas. I put a couple of Texans into my "bud and breakfast."

      Can't wait to see you in St Pete!!

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  11. PS And congrats on the LOVELY reviews!

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  12. Congrats on the book and reviews.

    Yes, bags of marijuana and bags of cash. What could possibly go wrong?

    Mary/Liz

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  13. Congrats on the book release and the fab reviews, Marcia. What a brilliant backdrop for a mystery. The legalization issues - state vs. federal - of recreational weed fascinates me. And I love the title - very clever! Do you think it is only a matter of time before weed is legal in every state?

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    1. It's certainly trending that way, Jenn. We'll just have to see what happens at the federal level. Cory Booker keeps introducing legislation that would take marijuana off the Schedule 1, but so far, nothing has passed. It's a weird situation!

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  14. Congrats on the longevity of Hannah Ives! And the lovely reviews! And you are so right--all that cash and all that weed--yep, there's bound to be a story possibility or two in that combo. What gets me about the situation is the lack of hard science about the uses of marijuana--if it works so well for some patients with nausea, etc., what else can it do? What, exactly, might be detrimental effects on smokers by age, sex, etc.? And why are the answers so slow in coming? Because the federal government won't declassify it--I mean, farmers can't even grow hemp! (Although several governors are working to get by that bit of nonsense).

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    1. One of the HUGE problems with research is that government labs are REQUIRED to use government-grown pot in their research, and government grown pot is awful! Very poor quality, low in TCP and CBD content, nicknamed "Mexican brick weed.". So the results are meaningless when most people prefer to smoke the high-quality varieties -- and there are HUNDREDS of varieties and blends to choose from-- grown in states like CO, WA, OR and CA.

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  15. Congrats on the new book! And it does sound like a great place to set a mystery. If the Feds change their laws, this whole culture will go away. That change could be the setting for another great mystery.

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  16. Congrats, Marcia! I think some people still imagine cannabis users are hippies who love The Grateful Dead. Was this your experience during your research? It's not the case here in Seattle where pot is pretty mainstream.

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    1. Very few young hippies, actually. Huge numbers of ordinary folks 50+, and lots from states where pot is suppressed. Colorado is a destination vacation for honeymooners, people celebrating anniversaries, vacationers of all kinds. Think about the wine tours of Sonoma and Napa ... it's big business.

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  17. This sounds fascinating.
    We needed a B&B in Maine for visiting our niece. There is one very close to her. They specialize in marijuana, homegrown. Not the benefit we were looking for, but they are really nice and really convenient.
    Libby Dodd

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  18. Marcia, where have you been all my life? I am going right out and dig into your series.
    I stand with those who would like to legalize all drugs. I worked in the inner city during the 'crack' epidemic. Seeing crime controlled destruction convinced me that our tax dollars would be better served providing humane places for consumers. Why not let the profits go back to the tax payers?

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  19. In addition to marijuana's drug status proving problematic for users, it's a major, major problem for sellers, as well. It is still a federal crime to deposit moneys gained from the sale of any drugs into banks. Which means, among other things, that it's a cash business, no credit cards. Therefore, marijuana retailers and others have gobs of cash.

    In Colorado, the housing market is one of the signs of the fallout from the success of the industry. Pot money is used to buy real estate, which is then sold and turned into legal cash. Housing costs are skyrocketing because of this, and it's getting more difficult to find affordable homes, even rentals. Boulder, where my daughter lives, is already an attractive and pricey place to live, but it's twice as much so as it was when she moved there over ten years ago.

    When the first dispensaries opened, my hippie-era husband wanted to check it out. We visited two shops, very different from each other. One was like a fancy spa, where you waited in a reception area for the next consultant. The other had armed cops at the door, and the guy we talked to had clearly been indulging in the stock.

    The young woman consultant turned to our then-29 year old daughter and said, "It's so cool that you brought your parents here!". Our daughter replied, "Are you kidding? They brought ME!"

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    1. That's a funny story, Karen! In CO, some weederies have a workaround by joining together to form a kind of cooperative to handle the money. It's all sanctioned and regulated by the CO government. Gov Higgenlooper is very forward-thinking in matters pot!

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  20. These days, it's all about the pot, 'bout the pot, no bourbon. Who would have thought that the baby boomers, who brought cannabis out into the open the first time, would in their retirement years be legally getting lit after a round of golf?

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  21. I love all those punny words: weederies, indeed! A glimpse into a world that's not my own but which is fascinbating. Congrats on the new book!

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    1. How about "budtenders" and budristas?"

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  22. Congrats on the new book, sounds like a fun read! And what a timely subject. I have always thought marijuana should be legally available for those who wanted to use it for medical purposes. And when the vote came up in WA State in 2012 for legalization I thought I was for it. However there were things I had not anticipated such as the medical dispensaries closing and forcing those people to pay high prices in the stores selling for recreational use. Having neighbors who smoke on their deck every summer night where one can get a contact high from just sitting in their own yard. And the heavy smell of the drug on many of the streets of Seattle when I visit there. Pot is supposed to be just like alcohol, can not walk down the street and drink, can not walk down the street and smoke, but it just doesn't seem to work that way. Also, drivers who don't drink and drive but think it is okay to smoke and drive. Sadly the number of fatal accidents where the driver tested positive for THC have doubled from 2013 to 2014. (according to AAA) I do believe other states, such as Colorado, do a better job than Washington does organizing and controlling the business aspects of marijuana. Plan to look for your book!

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  23. I'm a baby boomer who enjoyed cannabis back in the day but that time may have passed for me. I spent some time in Colorado recently and wasn't even tempted, but the subculture developing there is fascinating. On the back of the doors to the stalls in ladies' room were posters to educate people about the legalities surrounding pot in Colorado. The Texas interstates are lined with billboards advertising lawyers for people leaving Colorado with grass, then getting arrested in Texas for possession. Great concept for a mystery. I'd like to read it.

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