Michael Guillebeau’s first book, JOSH WHOEVER (Five Star Mysteries, 2013) was a finalist for the 2014 Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel: Literary Suspense, and received a starred review in Library Journal, and was named a Debut Mystery of the Month by Library Journal. A second novel, A STUDY IN DETAIL, will be published by Five Star Mysteries in March 2015. SHARK’S TOOTH, a collection of detective stories set on Florida’s Emerald Coast, was published by Ardent Writers Press in 2014. Guillebeau has published over twenty short stories, including three in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
I loved your first book, JOSH WHOEVER. I’m a huge fan of oddball characters whose humanity leaves muddy footprints all over the page. Tell us about your characters in A STUDY IN DETAIL. I grew up in the sixties, and my main characters in Study are modern people embodying sixties virtues.
Most people forget that the early sixties were dominated by characters like Andy Griffith and Matt Dillon: simple, decent straight-shooters. Paul, the POV character is one of them. He’s a good-hearted outdoorsman who just wants to run his kayak business and maintain a difficult relationship with his complex artist wife Marta. Marta disappears and the police suspect Paul of murder. But Paul finds a note in Marta’s last painting telling him that she’s faked her death to make her paintings famous, and telling him to keep her secret.
Enter the second, and strongest character: Rue. Rue is a young, open-hearted New Age girl who believes the universe wants her to give Paul six months of her life to help him get over his dead wife. Rue, to me, is the flowering of the goodness of the early sixties, which resulted in the flower children we usually associate with the decade. An enforcer from a casino arrives demanding that Paul repay the $5M that he says Marta stole from the casino, a suspicious insurance investigator dogs Paul because Marta took out a $5M insurance policy shortly before the disappearance, and a new set of Marta paintings show up and Arizona. Paul goes to investigate, followed by Rue.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work? Fun, primarily. I enjoyed writing the book, and I enjoyed hanging around with Rue and Paul as these good-hearted people try to navigate a complex modern world. If there’s a message, I guess it’s just the effect that good-hearted people can have if they stay good-hearted. And solve murders, of course. It is a mystery. Sort of.
Are there authors who have inspired your work? Really, every book in the library. John MacDonald’s Travis McGee (the physical description of Paul is lifted straight from McGee.) Donald Westlake. One of my reviewers compared Study to a modern Frank Capra movie, and I take that as high praise.
Is there a book out there you wish you’d written and why? I’m tempted to say ‘Every book in the library’ again. I’m really opinionated on books—I either love them or want to throw them against the wall. Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone. Anything by Hiaasen. Westlake’s Get Real. Elmore Leonard’s Maximum Bob. Anything by Robert Parker (the live one, not all the books he seems to write since he’s dead.) Oh, and one really off the wall book. Rhonda Nelson’s The Future Widow’s Club. If that title doesn’t hook you, you have no business reading.
What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you? Where do I send your Nobel prize?