Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shopping with Your S.O.

 With Tom Wickersham

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I spent yesterday at bookstores...helping with Small Business Saturday! And it was not only fabulous and fun, it was a real time of insight into relationships. How people deal with each other while shopping--that's worthy of a PhD thesis.

I was staffing the "do you have it" computer at Brookline Booksmith for part of the day. It was such fun! (with Michael Blanding of wonderful The Map Thief and Joan Wickersham of The News From Spain, and Joan's son Tom, the social events coordinator. Oh, and young Cleo Blanding, age about 7, who can recite the first paragraph of  her father's The Map Thief and who is a whiz on the "do you have it" computer!) 

  But I cannot begin to tell you how often my question of "can I help you find something?" was answered with --"Yeah, can you find my wife?"  and just as often "Yeah, can you find my husband?"

SO, yeah. Relationships come out during shopping, that's for sure. And thriller author John Caranen has been thinking about relationships, too.  And not just on Small Business Saturday.

What 're you thinking?

by John Caranen

How does a man see inside a woman's head? How does he discern what motivates her? How does he even begin to understand a woman, especially one who is intelligent, complex, and  -  lethal? Sigmund Freud, whose mother dressed him funny, once said, "My God, what do women want?" Or at least, that's the way I heard it.

In my debut novel, Signs of Struggle (Neverland 2012) I introduce a fine young lass of a woman, Wendy Soderstrom. I had no idea at the time that she would turn out to be a killer. All I had in my head was the image of a beautiful athletic woman sprinting down a country lane toward my protagonist, Thomas O' Shea, who happens to be driving by in his pickup truck. Oh, yeah, and she is covered with blood and is screaming. O' Shea, being, according to him, "the most selfish person I know," contemplates not helping her. He has his own issues. He wants to pretend he doesn't even see her.

But he does, and he makes a huge decision to offer his help.

Wendy's husband has been chewed up by a mower and has bled out. A farm accident. O'Shea renders aid to the young widow until the EMS guys show up to take over as professionals. O'Shea sees to it that Wendy is removed from the scene by a kindly neighbor, who takes Wendy into town to be checked out for shock.

It begins to rain, and with the showers come questions. What, exactly, happened to cause Wendy's young husband to fall from his tractor and be flailed to death by the mower? What distracted him? Why?

Well, these are questions, and Thomas starts asking around. And people start trying to discourage him. He perseveres and discovers that there's more to Wendy, and a simple farm accident, going on in the picturesque farm community of Rockbluff, Iowa. Like, there was no farm accident. And more people die, and Wendy Soderstrom, sweet and alluring, flirtatious and mourning, is involved in more than one would guess, if one were naive, and that's something Thomas O' Shea is not.

When I write about women, it comes from years of observation. I know, I know. I said "observation" because I grew up with a mother and two  older sisters, and I paid attention. Then I dated, a lot, and continued to observe and wonder. Now I have been married for decades and have two grown daughters. They're all women! Even if I weren't paying attention, you'd think I'd learn something. I observe (not stalk) and I listen (yes, eavesdrop) and learn stuff. So, there it is.

HANK:  So--yeah. We'll bite. Let's talk about this. John, what did you learn?  Reds, do you go shopping with your spouse? HOw well does that work?


John Carenen, a native of Clinton, Iowa, graduated with an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from the prestigious University of Iowa Writers Workshop and has been writing ever since. His work has appeared in numerous popular and literary magazines, and he has been a featured columnist in newspapers in North and South Carolina. A novel, Son-up, Son-down was published by the National Institute of Mental Health.
His debut Thomas O'Shea mystery novel, Signs of Struggle, was published in October of 2012. A Far Gone Night, the long- anticipated sequel, continues the exploits of the enigmatic protagonist and the quirky characters of Rockbluff, Iowa.

John is currently an English professor at Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina. He and his wife live in their cozy cottage down a quiet lane in northern Greenville, South Carolina. He is a big fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Boston Red Sox. 

A Far Gone Night
by John Carenen

Suffering from insomnia, wise-cracking tough guy Thomas O'Shea goes for a late-night stroll through the peaceful streets of Rockbluff, Iowa, and finds himself pausing downtown on the bridge that spans the Whitetail River. When he glances downstream, something catches his eye...something that looks like a body. He scrambles down to the riverbank, pulling the body of a young girl from the water. The girl is naked, with two bullet holes in the back of her head. Ever suspicious of law enforcement, O’Shea chooses not mention the bullet holes when Deputy Stephen Doltch, on routine patrol, discovers him at the river's edge.
When the coroner's report lists the cause of death as "drowning," Thomas goes into action. Confronting the coroner, he is met with hostility. But then the coroner and his wife disappear, along with the body of the dead girl. Once again, Thomas gears up to find answers that will reveal who put the bullets in the girl's head, why she was killed, and her identity, which may hit a little too close to home.
Teaming up with his friend Lunatic Mooning and Clancy Dominguez, an old buddy from his Navy SEAL days, Thomas and the other two men join together to bring justice to the dead girl, a quest that takes them to the Chalaka Reservation in Minnesota, seedy businesses adjacent to the Chalaka Casino, and straight into the world of organized crime.
A fast-paced story, laugh-out-loud moments and familiar, quirky characters from Carenen's debut novel, Signs of Struggle, contribute once again to the complex world of Thomas O'Shea. 


  1. Oh, yes, I go shopping with John a lot because . . . well, he drives and then I don't have to. He is the epitome of patience and he never gripes about how long it takes me to wander through the store seeking out whatever it is that I've decided must find its way into our cart.

    John, your Wendy sounds like quite a lady. I'm off to hunt up the book . . . .

  2. Well now I really want to know if John goes shopping with his wife and girls...

    and how in the world did the cornoner miss the two bullet holes?

    I'm going to have to read this I guess! thanks for visiting John!

    (ps my John hates to shop. will come along if dragged...)

  3. Dear Friends at Jungle Red, be sure to catch my blog today - 11/30/2014 on Crime Writer's Chronicle - as Jungle Red is a Big Mention! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  4. I love this setup. Farm machines can be lethal. Look forward to reading your book, John!

    Shopping? Except for books and food, I don't go there. Exception being local stores at Christmas and for birthdays. Also, thank goodness for the internet.

  5. Welcome, John! Good luck with your continuing observation of women (aren't we a puzzlement?!)

    Donald is not much of a shopper. To get him to buy his own clothes I have to trick him into trying on one something and then bombarding him with other things while he's trapped in a dressing room.

  6. Boys are equally as baffling. Last Wednesday night, my husband called a couple minutes after departing, asking me to come get him out of a ditch. (Each house of our subdivision has a yard edged with wide, shallow dips -- kind of like ditches) He was just around the corner when his diesel truck slid into one and couldn't get out. I jumped in my 4-wheel SUV. Luckily we know the neighbor in that corner house and he came out to help. Long story short, the "boys" were giggling and have a great time hooking up the stranded truck and gunning the SUV to haul it out eventually. I was fuming, cold, and disgusted with their behavior. Boys.

    Shopping with my husband? As rarely as possible. :)

  7. Love the image of "a fine lass of a woman" ... though it brings to mind a boyfriend I once had who liked to refer to me as his "wench." I'm not very wench-ish and certainly not very his-ish.

    Congratulations on the book!

    Before cell phones I refused to go shopping with Jerry. He could never remember where I told him to meet me, and when he did stood behind a post.

  8. John, the town of Rockbluff, Iowa sounds like a place of deep secrets and great mystery, which, of course, makes a perfect setting for a mystery book. I'm looking forward to visiting this novel town.

    Shopping with my husband? I will fall back on the cliche "avoid it like the plague" to describe the frequency of that activity. My husband is the sort of shopper who goes to a store with one item in mind that he needs, finds it, checks out, and is ready to leave. I like to browse, and if it's a bookstore, I like to take up residence. Hurrying in a bookstore is anathema to my soul. Better to avoid shopping with anyone but another book lover there.

  9. Having lived on a farm and lost a friend to a tractor accident, I get chills just reading the description. Always makes me glad we keep the cab on our Mahindra. I'm looking forward to an interesting read.

  10. Yeah, Jonathan and I go grocery shopping all the time together. We have a system. I send him to pick out one thingy--like light bulbs. Then I get everything else, and by the time he's chosen the exact correct kind of light bulb, I have finished with the rest of the shopping.
    Works perfectly. And, exactly, Joan, then I don't have to drive.

    He rally balked at Costco, seriously, I had to drag him, But now he loves it.

    On line shopping is so convenient ,too. Except it dries me crazy to put in my credit card number.

    And yes, John, so eager to hear what you learned... :-)

  11. Shopping. Not so much anymore. But I think I'll have to start again. I am now the most able person in the family, and that's a little scary. What makes it easier than it might otherwise be is knowing that the things I do now have all been done by someone else for me before. So in an odd way it is a gift to be able to give back no matter how difficult.

  12. Ha ha Hallie you're very funny today, with Jerry behind a post--you wench!

    John has now begun balking at the "give him one item" technique. So I write out two lists, one for him and one for me. Mine is always longer, but it might just save the marriage:).

    Reine you've got a great attitude going, I bet it works out.

    Thelma, off to check out the blog...

  13. Oh, Roberta, hope Jonathan does not decide to ask for more items. SO far, so good. If necessary, I can add paper towels to the list. Lots of choices there. :-)

    Thelma, LOVE the blog and cannot wait to try the mix!

  14. I'm just reading this, after doing a major shopping trip with my husband. It's exhausting! I systematically shop the grocery store, aisle by aisle, but he zigzags all over the place, haphazardly, and then stands in front of the (admittedly bewildering) cereal display for ages. It takes us three times as long to shop together as it does for me by myself.

    However, it is nice to have the company!

  15. I can't wait to read John's books -- I grew up just down the river from Clinton in Davenport, Iowa. Bob and I shop together sometimes -- so far we have both lived to tell the tale.

  16. A (male) friend who is co-godparent with me offered to pay for the entire wedding present that we sent our godson if I would leave him totally out of the shopping. This amused me because it is so "guy" of him.

    Although we did go shopping together a few times back in the day (a looooong time ago), I don't shop much myself anymore, and I can't imagine dragging him along on a shopping expedition if I did go on one.

    I think guys are like the old joke about "Where do Boston women buy their hats?" The answer is they don't; Boston women "have a hat." Guys "have a shirt" and don't replace it unless the women in their lives replace it for them.