He began his writing career on a lark, penning a humorous tale of cowpokes with a taste for larceny. Little did he know that that work would be published years later with more to follow. Multi-genre author Jack B. Strandburg can celebrate: the muse is strong with more to come.
Welcome to the blog, Jack. Tell me, how did you go from a pool sharking Western comedy a la Mel Brooks to a serial killer thriller?
I wrote the Western comedy in the mid 1980’s just for fun, with no thought or dream of ever publishing the work. Even when I wanted to become an author, I never dreamed this work was good enough to make the grade. It just happened to kick off my publishing career (if you can call it a career). I’ve always loved the mystery, suspense, and thriller genre, however, so once I decided to pursue my dream, I knew that genre would be the one of choice.
Your current WIPs focus on investigations: one from the POV of an armed forces veteran; the other from someone inside the police force. How does this style of detective work compare? Does the veteran have more freedom than the cop, as in the case of a P.I.?
I don’t really focus too much on the “definition” of a P.I. vs. a cop vs. another protagonist, but you’re right in assuming the veteran will have more freedom. I’m more concerned with my protagonist making sure the antagonist gets the justice he or she deserves, even if the cop, P.I., or other have to bend the law a little.
THE MONOGRAM KILLER has ‘history in the mystery.’ Can you give us a teaser?
Catherine chewed her lip before answering. “I didn’t recognize the name either, so I did some research. Herman Mudgett is the real name of Dr. Henry Holmes, allegedly the first documented serial killer in America. In the 1880s, he operated a hotel in Chicago. They called it The Murder Castle. It was a torture chamber. He confessed to twenty-seven murders but evidence suggested there were actually two-hundred or more. Some believed he was Jack the Ripper but that was never proven.”
And of course, I’d love a look at HUSTLE HENRY. I keep thinking of A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST.
Twelve days later, Henry sat in a saloon in Flintrock, Texas sipping whiskey from a shot glass riddled with fingerprints. The barkeep claimed his towels were too soiled from wiping up beer and tobacco spit from the floor and counter to keep the glasses clean. Whatever. The saloon had seen better days. The legs on most of the chairs and tables were either cracked or broken, the walls bare, the piano hideously out of tune, and the stairs so rickety, the survival rate for getting to the upper floor was less than twenty percent. The odor of urine and vomit mixed with liquor hung in the air like a horse’s fart in high humidity. Flintrock, located two-hundred miles south of the Oklahoma-Texas border, would never rank high as an Old West tourist attraction.
The Sahara sands paid you a recent visit. What is that like and have you dug out?
A few years ago I was diagnosed with allergies to dust mites and mold. Allergy shots have helped, but the dust dropped by the sandstorm flared my allergy symptoms. Unfortunately, I don’t get a runny nose, itchy eyes, or scratchy throat, my symptoms are lethargy followed by fatigue. At first I didn’t know the reason why my allergies flared up until I read about the sandstorm. People all over Southeastern Texas (apparently the storm’s destination) are flocking to doctors, many asking why they are getting symptoms they never experienced before. Those suffering with asthma and respiratory ailments are warned to stay indoors as much as possible. I guess I should consider myself somewhat fortunate I’m not more sick. The situation is improving, and I don’t have the symptoms as often, but still must fight through occasional suffering.
Ed. – You have my sympathies, sir. I’m currently surrounded by Ragweed!
Any last words?
Anyone with creative talent and who wants to be a writer / author, keep on the lookout for sources of inspiration. They could come from anywhere. The idea for The Monogram Killer came when I was on the treadmill listening to “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger. The first two lines go, “She stood there bright as the sun on that California coast, He was a Midwestern boy on his own.” I had two characters, one wanting to meet the other, somehow it became a serial killer story with a paranormal twist. Go figure.
Ed. – I couldn’t agree more.
TITLES BY JACK B. STRANDBURG
Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid
Published by Solstice Publishing:
Clarence Flannery was luckier than most men his age to discover his life’s ambition, particularly in the unpredictable years just following the Civil War. Born with an unmatched skill to play pool, he left his home in Kansas when he turned twenty-six and traveled throughout the Southwestern United States to make his mark as a legendary pool hustler, with every intention of amassing a fortune in the process.
Clarence needed help for both support and protection, and recruited James Skinner as his partner, along with nine other highly-skilled pool players to assist him in his quest.
Wanting to be included in the same sentence as Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great, Clarence changed his name to Hustle Henry, Skinner became the Cue-Ball Kid, and the eleven men would go down in history as The Hole-in-the-Table-Bunch, known far and wide for hustling wannabe pool sharks out of their life savings.
All goes to plan and life has a rosy and profitable outlook, but Henry and his men want more than what pool halls and saloons offer, so they decide to challenge the more affluent clientele on a riverboat.
Initially, the venture proves profitable, but the millionaire tycoon and owner of the fleet of riverboats, takes exception, and intends to bring down the Bunch and thrust Henry and The Kid into a life of destitution.
Taking along the Kid’s girlfriend, Penelope Henderson, the Kid and Henry flee to South America – where there will be a final showdown…
Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid is a fiction work of Western humor with an interesting and amusing cast of characters.
“I have to give accolades to the author for being unique — I never would have thought of writing a historical western about a pool hustler, of all things! In my opinion the book is one that you can’t take too seriously — it’s meant to be fun and light hearted and the writer accomplishes just that. I think guys would get a kick out of this one.”
“Loved the character and the format! Very happy with the writing, an easy and very fun read! Hoping this author will work on another!”
“Very Easy reading. The story line kept me wanting to know what was next in the story. I highly recommend reading this book.”
The Monogram Killer
Published by Solstice Publishing
When Julia Ballard meets Kelly Nichols, she believed he was the man of her dreams. Julia’s best friend has doubts, and her investigation into Nichols’s life encourages her suspicions. Despite Jessica’s warnings, Julia is convinced he is sincere and cares for her. Nichols is hiding secrets from a legacy he cannot escape, and Julia is the key to a sinister plan. When two homicide detectives combine forces to search for a serial killer, it becomes a race to see who accomplishes their goal first.
“Excellent story, well told. Jack leads you on an emotional roller coaster ride by the heroine and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Quick read and before you knew it, the mystery was solved. Great character development, wonderful and professionally descriptive prose and several twists and turns kept me tuned in. Need more like this!!”
“Surprise ending. Like the history behind the mystery.”
“A romance – a mystery – a surprise. Before I knew it I was at the end. A good read for all.”
Works in Progress
A Matter of Honor (short story) – Luke Coleman returns from the armed forces and learns the truth about the deaths of his father and brother, both police officers.
A Head in the Game (novel) – Chicago Homicide Inspector Aaron Randall faces his toughest case while dealing with doubts about his career and the potential of a romantic relationship. Jared Prescott, a Heisman Trophy winner and Vice President of a large and respected pharmaceutical company, is found murdered at a seedy motel. The investigation uncovers more suspects than normal, with motives ranging from jealousy to revenge to extortion. When the body of his close friend and number one informant is found stabbed to death in a deserted alley, and a woman claiming to be present at the time of Prescott’s murder is gunned down in front of him, and a woman who worked for the same company is found murdered in her home, Randall knows he is dealing with a conspiracy. Randall is hamstrung during the investigation by pressure from the commissioner down the chain of command because the president of the pharmaceutical company, anxious for resolution to Jared Prescott’s murder, is a close friend with a Senator whose sights are set on the Oval Office.
About the Author
Jack Strandburg was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio. He is a degreed professional with a background in Accounting and Information Technology and recently retired after more than 33 years working for a Fortune 500 company. He has been writing since his teenage years.
He self-published an inspirational titled An Appointment With God: One Ordinary Man’s Journey to Faith Through Prayer, by Trafford Publishing.
His first published novel by Solstice Publishing is Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid, a parody of the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
His third work, a novella titled The Monogram Killer, published by Solstice Publishing, was released in May, 2016.
He is currently working on a short story titled A Matter of Honor, revising his first mystery novel, A Head in the Game, writing journals for an upcoming inspirational non-fiction book; and completed 70% of a first draft for a second mystery novel titled War Zone.
He is an editor and proofreader for Solstice Publishing.
Jack currently lives with his wife and two grown children, in Sugar Land, Texas. He has three grandchildren.
Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid
Thank you for joining us, Jack. We look forward to your WIP’s. Write on!
TOMORROW: Author and poet A.F. Stewart shares HORROR HAIKU and the art of a line.