Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends; a guest post by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: This is a picture of Jeff Cohen, author of the Aaron Tucker comedy/mysteries and the Comedy Tonight mystery/comedies

Talented author, baseball connoisseur, father and husband.

This is a picture of E.J. Copperman, author of the Haunted Guesthouse series.

Prolific novelist, New Jersey booster, writing teacher and musician.

We here at JRW Love Jeff and E.J., and have had both on to talk about their latest novels. But never in our wildest dreams did we think they would get together to start another quirky, clever mystery series with such a protagonist who can only be described as a Sherlock Holmes for our age: Samuel Hoenig, a brilliant loner with a Questions Answered agency, an apartment in an old pizza restaurant, and Asperger's Syndrome. 

Not since Nora Roberts teamed up with JD Robb or Ed McBain wrote with Evan Hunter has the literary world seen such a tag team.  So let me introduce to you/ the one and only Jeff and E.J./ and THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD...

What’s your favorite Beatles song?
It’s not an idle question, nor, heaven forbid, one that doesn’t lead to a discussion of my (our) latest book. The song by the Fab Four you most enjoy is a key to your inner psychology, a way to determine whether you are trustworthy or un-, sincere or in-, mented or de-.
That’s the theory of Samuel Hoenig, the borderline genius with Asperger’s Syndrome who is the central character and narrator of THE QUESTION OFTHE MISSING HEAD.
Samuel has a “disorder” (he thinks of it merely as an element of his personality) called Asperger’s Syndrome, which used to be its own thing and is now a part of the autism spectrum and don’t get me started on how all that happened. One of the aspects of Asperger’s is that the person with it usually focuses on one or two subjects almost to the exclusion of all others.
In Samuel’s case, there are two “special interests”: New York Yankees baseball and the music of the Beatles.
But not to worry, Red Sox Nation—Samuel does not use his knowledge of pinstriped hardball in any way but to sometimes understand other issues in human interaction. He does, however, ask most people he meets what song by John, Paul, George and Ringo they most favor, and the answer can tell him a great deal. He believes.
So let’s take a quick sample and see what Samuel thinks is the hidden truth behind each Beatles response:
Eleanor Rigby: Pretentious. Terrified of death. Possibly believes him/herself to be lonely.
Help!: Energetic. Articulate. Possibly sees himself as a victim.
You Know My Name, Look Up the Number: Complete and utter lunatic.
There are others.
I conceived of the Beatles test as a way for Samuel to use his special interest in the Beatles (a subject I know well enough to at least usually avoid the dreaded Research) to understand the “neurotypical” better than he usually does. The world is something of a puzzle to Samuel, so having some pieces that are familiar helps smooth the way a little bit.
It also allows for people Samuel meets to respond in a variety of ways. Those who are going to see him as a freak will recoil at the question, as if he were asking what type of underwear they favor on first meeting (that’s not bad; I might have to use that one in an upcoming Samuel book). Those who “get” him, like his new associate Janet Washburn, will answer without hesitation and be interested in the type of information they might have just volunteered.
But it also is designed to help the reader see what Samuel sees and hopefully to understand him better. Samuel narrates the Asperger’s mystery series because I wanted the reader to get into his head and rummage around.
Full disclosure: I have a son who has Asperger’s, and try to cram some information about it into many of the books I write so those who aren’t looking for it might be confronted with some understanding of the disorder anyway. People have told me they enjoy the added value of information, and some with relatives or friends who have autism in the family have graciously said the inclusion of characters who are just a little bit different has helped. I hope that’s true.
The Beatles thing? I think it’s fun and it gives me the opportunity to show how Samuel thinks, and for the reader to decide if he’s right about the judgments he makes. Just because he says that loving Rain means that one is contemplative and intelligent doesn’t mean you have to agree. You might be one of those freaks who are crazy about Revolution 9. That’s your prerogative.
So. What’s your favorite Beatles song, and what do you think it says about you?

Jeff and E.J. have copies of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD for some lucky commentors! Yeah, yeah, yeah!

E.J.Copperman and Jeff Cohen have collaborated on THE QUESTION OF THEMISSING HEAD, an Asperger’s Mystery from Midnight ink. If your local bookstore doesn’t have it, ask them to order it—they will.
You can find out more about Jeff Cohen at his website. You can friend him on Facebook ,  follow him on Twitter as @jeffcohenwriter, and enjoy his blogging at the fabulous Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room! You can get info and read about the Haunted Guesthouse series at E.J. Copperman's website. As you might expect, E.J. is on Facebook, Twitter (as @EJCop) and has a blog, Sliced Bread.


  1. Samuel Hoenig sounds like an fascinating protagonist; The Question of the Missing Head is definitely going on my to-be-read pile.
    The Beatles song thing? Does everyone have a favorite? I guess I'm choosing "I Want to Hold Your Hand;" what it says about me is: thank goodness I was able to think of something when you said name a favorite Beatles' song . . . .

  2. I have a niece with Asperger's and she just went to see Sir Paul live in concert. Her first concert, and she had a great time. She and Samuel would get along.

    Favorite Beatles song: "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" - It's a perfect little song, it's sung by George, and what it says is that I like to escape the real world through dance/music/denial/art. Which is true.

    I look forward to reading THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD.

  3. This sounds completely wonderful. Seriously--you are brillliant.
    My favorite Beatles song--uh oh, I am going to over- think. :-)
    Let it Be?
    The whole side of Abbey Road?
    I'n a big fan of I'm Down.
    This is so dilly--I m in a tiny hotel room in Indianapolis, and trying to sing the entire library of Beatles songs.
    I'll Be Back
    (Thinking... more to come! Thank you for letting me think about this--what fun!)

  4. I would like to publicly disavow both photographs attached to this post. Clearly someone has gotten a little too seriously into the Halloween spirit(s). If you know what I mean.

  5. Samuel would probably say my favorite Beatles song means I'm flighty, have a short attention span, and care more about guitar riffs than lyrics. Guesses?

  6. How can anyone choose a favorite Beatles song?

  7. Terrific! A new book by Cohen/Copperman! It's going on my TBR - NOW list! To my knowledge, I've read all your mysteries, except possibly one of the Copperman ones. I'm bad with titles, as I'll mention below. If I DID miss one, I intend to remedy that immediately.

    As I've gotten older I've found that I often forget titles of songs, movies, books, so I'm not sure I can tell you the name of my favorite Beatles song. Is it cheating if I say I like ALL of them?

  8. looking forward to reading your book. Favorite song: "Julia", though I've always wondered what seashell eyes actually look like.

  9. I'm will Ellen, I don't think I can choose a single Beatles song. Wasn't a big fan of Revolution 9, but hey, they can't all be winners.

    And why is Maxwell's Silver Hammer now going through my head?

    Having known a few people with Asperger's, I think it would be fascinating to read on as a detective.

  10. Hey, Jeff! You had me at "an Asperger's mystery" and finished me off with your wondrously silly title.

    Favorite song used to be Eleanor Rigby. Now I confess a fondness for When I'm Sixty-four.

  11. Yeah, Mary, same earworm.

  12. Samuel does indeed sound fascinating--I look forward to 'meeting' him. And how have I missed your other comedy/mysteries??

    Favorite Beatles tune? The White Album. Okay, so it's not one song. Deal with it, Samuel. ;-)

  13. Hi Jeff/EJ! What a great idea for a series! Can't wait to meet Samuel.

    Favorite Beatles? That's too hard a test for first thing in the morning. Off the top of my head I'm going to say "A Day in the Life", although shudder to think what that says about me. And is that actually the title?

  14. Having a son with Asperger's, you've immediately caught my attention. Of course the scale is so wide between those who function reasonably well in the world and those who can barely get by.

    Favorite Beatle's song: it's a gray day here so "Yesterday" popped into my head. Had it been a bit brighter, I would probably have chosen "Imagine."

    ~ Jim

  15. Welcome Jeff--both of your pix are adorable! and the Beatles song quirk is brilliant. Looking forward to this book.

    I would think it might be hard to determine how much about Asperger's is too much in a mystery--how do you figure this out?

    Paperback Writer? Yesterday? Norwegian Wood? No, I think it has to be "I'LL FOLLOW THE SUN". Love the harmony...

  16. As I read each song title in the comments I think, "Oh, that's a good one!" I can't pick just one, and saying "the one I'm listening to now" would probably be cheating (we have a weekly radio show called Breakfast with the Beatles that's been running for at least 35-40 years up here). I never got to see them in person, though my best friend saw them at Shea Stadium.

  17. So, what does it say about me that I don't have a favorite Beatles song? I just haven't listened to them enough to even make a wild guess what song I might like.

  18. Hey Jude, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better ...

  19. I love and adore the Beatles. I was a kid of the 80s but wanted to be a kid of the 60s, I loved them so much. :) It's easier to say which Beatle I loved (Paul) than a favorite song. Let it Be. Fine. Wait...

    Asperger's and similar brilliant-but-quirky characters are becoming more available. I just finished the first in the series by Estelle Ryan with a female character, not diagnosed, but with the same things. Will try Copperman's & Cohen's. There's a song in those names.

  20. First off, I am sadly disappointed no one has complimented me on my stunning Photoshop skills. Secondly, my favorite Beatles song is Norwegian Wood, though I have a special place in my heart for Paperback Writer, for obvious reasons.

    A question I should have asked Jeff when we were at dinner last Saturday night but didn't: are you a mad Beatles buff with all sorts of facts and trivia at your fingertips, or did you have to research the band to portray Samuel's obsession?

  21. It's hard to pick a favorite. I'll go with "Here, There and Everywhere" followed by "Yesterday."

  22. First, I must say that I love the cover on this book. I was scrolling down reading the post, and then the cover pops up and utterly delights me. Maybe I should ask Samuel what it means to like a cover of a headless woman holding the title of the book.

    The subject of autism and Asperger's caught my interest when my daughter worked at the autism center on her college campus and after graduation was in charge of one of the school's extended campus autism centers. She had started her Masters in an austism centered degree when she interrupted it and work for children. I'm hoping that she returns to it when her youngest starts school next year. Anyway, I think it is fascinating to explore different ways of thinking and approaching life, and using the POV of an Asperger's adult is definitely one I want to check out.

    Oh, my, trying to pick a favorite Beatles' song. I will have to go with "Blackbird," written by Paul McCartney but credited to McCartney/Lennon. It's a simple solo performance by Paul, but it has a lot of powerful meaning behind it. It always leaves me uplifted and thinking possibilities abound. I think having Samuel use Beatles' songs to assess people is bloody brilliant (yes, I just got through reading yet another British novel)!

    The Question of the Missing Head is a book I know I'm going to enjoy. I gravitate towards quirky, and I do believe I will experience that in spades from the cover to the end. And, Jeff and E.J., I just looked up your other books you've written. How I wish I could read more than one book at a time. These books look so entertaining that I will somehow have to fit them in at some point. I think the news report of my demise is going to state that they found her with piles of books surrounding the chair in which she expired. Thanks for adding to the piles.

  23. Oh, don't worry, Julia. "Appreciation" for your Photoshop skills will be on its way. Keep watching the DEAD GUY blog on Mondays. As for my Beatles knowledge, I am a pretty serious (although not insane) fan and so far haven't had to do much research. Samuel doesn't spend the whole book blathering on about the band, so I'm doling it out in small bites. As Joe Torre, manager of the YANKEES, used to say.

  24. I am not going to "bare all" by picking a Beatles song. Much too personal and potentially embarrassing)
    The book sounds great.

  25. My favorite is Yellow Submmarine. Why? Because growing up we had a yellow station wagon that my father christened The Yellow Submarine. Loved that car!

  26. This looks excellent. I have four kids, three of whom are Aspies. My favourite Beatles song is (currently, anyway) Norwegian Wood. Maybe it's the Bob Dylan "Fourth Time Around" synchronicity.

  27. you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Otherwise Maxwell's silver hammer will come down on your head.

  28. In My Life makes me a little weepy every time I hear it, yet my favorite remains Hey Jude.

  29. Imagine
    When I visited the Beatles'museum in Liverpool, I stayed a long time in the "Imagine" part and the song is still with me.
    Your book is fascinating.

  30. Love the premise of the latest book, Jeff/E.J.

    Cannot however pick just ONE favorite Beatles song. Just as I couldn't pick a fave Beatle...first it was Paul for his cuteness, then John for intelligence,but George was so talented & sweet too, and Ringo was funny & great on see my dilemma. (Well, I'm a Gemini, so that's my excuse)

    I do have "Come Together" in my head right now!

  31. Different songs for different moods. I saw Paul at his farewell concert at the ‘Stick and loved his intro to Blackbird (anti-racism), but love far too many of their songs to have one favorite.

    My husband of 29 years has Asperger’s, and had an extremely successful engineering career until his recent retirement. On a personal level, it’s a more difficult thing to live with, but it most certainly can be done.

    As for baseball, I’m currently watching my beloved San Francisco Giants in the World Series. We’re THREE outs away from beating Kansas City!!! GO GIANTS!!!C

  32. Good Day Sunshine, I think is the title. It means I'm normally a happy guy would be a lot happier if her won a free copy if THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD.