Meet Guest Author Jerold Last

 

Jerold Last Author PhotoHello everyone, I am a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California’s Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California. With a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry, I do research in asthma and on health effects of air pollution on the lungs, as well as teaching and lots and lots of administrative stuff.I’ma big fan of mystery novels. Because I lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each, I was able to select the most interesting South American locations I could find for Roger and Suzanne to visit while solving the miscellaneous murders. I continue productive research collaborations with faculty members in Salta and Montevideo.

I try to write hard-boiled mystery books that are fast moving and entertain the reader, while introducing the readers to a region where I have lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers. Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, and Iguazu Falls are almost characters in these books, and the novels portray these places as vivid and real.

Jerry and ElaineMy wife Elaine and I live in Northern California, where Elaine breeds prize-winning German Shorthaired Pointer dogs and provides technical advice for my novels like The Deadly Dog Show, and editing for all of the books. We also enjoy three granddaughters and a grandson.

Why am I a writer? I’ve been a big fan of mystery novels all my life. I started reading The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew in grade school. Erle Stanley Gardner and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came next, before I hit my teens. As I moved towards college and nominal adulthood, my favorites became the masters of the private eye genre, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald. I like the noir style, the role of the private detective as the hero, and the fast pace of the action as a complex plot unfolds. It just seemed, one day, that I should try constructing the puzzles as well as trying to solve them. And here I am.

I think most mystery writers, including me, can rule out monetary gain as our greatest reward for being published authors, especially independent authors. Of course, there’s a personal satisfaction in seeing a book with our name on it. It’s a form of creativity that can be very reinforcing as you do it. And, I’ve met (live and via Facebook) some very nice people who’ve helped me along the way. But the biggest reward is the feedback people have given me, via book reviews, e-mails, and Facebook, that reading one or another of my books gave them several hours of pleasure, or a desire to visit South America, or a memory of already having been there. That kind of positive feedback feels awfully good when it happens.

How have I been able to get my books published? Thanks to Amazon, quite easily, with very, very few difficulties. In the current era of independent publishing, it’s like the modern cameras where you point and click. Except with a book you click and upload to Amazon and, perhaps, other retail outlets. Sales and book promotion, on the other hand, are a much more difficult with the limited time available. Especially with time always short and at a premium, finding ways to promote the books is a constant struggle. Which brings me to a good excuse to say, thank you very much for this opportunity, Chris!

Other interests and hobbies: Let’s see now. I work full time as a professor at a major university, teaching, doing research, writing grant applications and scientific papers, and trying to do my share of the committee and administrative service load. My wife Elaine has been breeding German Shorthaired Pointers since before we were married, so there are always dogs around the house, being shown, and learning to hunt birds. I like American football (living where we do, the San Francisco 49ers are the local team) as a spectator sport. Many of the posts in my blog are based on one or another of these interests or hobbies, so details are available for the curious.

That’s enough about me, how about the books? All of the books are part of a series, with recurring characters and progression in time. Most of the stories take place in South America. This lets me choose exotic and unusual locales to kill people and solve murders that I know from first hand experience living in Uruguay and Argentina. Because of minor incidents during my life in these two cities, I’ve had several ideas that became mystery plots. For example, “The Ambivalent Corpse” was conceived and written because of our finding two bizarrely different memorials you wouldn’t expect to find together juxtaposed within 100 yards of each other on a beach along the Rio de la Plata in Montevideo.

Each book is written as a stand-alone novel—this isn’t a serial with cliffhanger endings or the same plot eked out in installments. You can start with any book on the list and it will make sense. If you want some sense of order in terms of how the characters are introduced and how they age, you probably want to start with either “The Ambivalent Corpse” or the anthology of short stories, “Five Quickies for Roger and Suzanne”.

In chronological order of publication, the books are:

The Ambivalent CorpseThe Ambivalent Corpse. What do a dismembered corpse and South American indigenous creation legends have in common? The answer to this question is a crucial clue as Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster solve a brutal murder in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Surreal KillerThe Surreal Killer. What motivates a serial killer? The answer to this question is the “whydunit” that leads Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster to “whodunit”, the solution of a series of brutal murders in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. This tightly written mystery story will keep you guessing all the way to the thrilling conclusion.

The Matador Murders1The Matador Murders brings Roger and Suzanne back to Montevideo, Uruguay. One of their friends is suspected of murder and needs their skills as detectives to help clear him of the charges. Life for Roger, and especially for Suzanne, is more complicated these days as they now have an infant son, Robert. The three of them, accompanied by Robert’s nanny, Bruce, fly to Uruguay. Before long we have our heroes directly in the middle of a gang war, off for a quick trip to Chile to learn all about the local crime scene, and meeting some unlikely allies in their mission. The book has lots of action, a good whodunit storyline, and occasional opportunities for sightseeing and eating regional specialty foods.

The Deadly Dog ShowThe Deadly Dog Show, a suspenseful journey into the world of competitive canine conformation contests, provides an exciting backdrop for murder. Roger Bowman, private eye, is hired to investigate mysterious occurrences at California dog shows. Before long, Roger is working undercover at the dog shows impersonating an owner, dead bodies are accumulating, and a mysterious stalker is pursuing Roger’s wife Suzanne.

The Origin Of MurderThe Origin of Murder, coming soon on Amazon Kindle. This murder mystery takes Roger and Suzanne to the Galapagos Islands, off the Pacific coast of Ecuador in South America. I’m also starting the next book to follow in the series, which will take our detective couple to Alaska.

1562x2500 CoverThe Body in the Parking Structure. Suzanne discovers the body of a Bolivian scientist in the parking garage next to the Medical School at UCLA. The police treat the killing as just another drug deal gone bad. P.I. Roger Bowman, Suzanne, and his team investigate the murder, which seems to be linked to a small biotechnology company and a new anti-cancer drug they are developing. The reader is off on a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles and Westwood in search of clues. The clues are all there: Can you figure out whodunit before Roger does? I got to use some of my scientific knowledge on this plot, which made it a lot of fun to write.

The Body In The BedThe Body in the Bed, a suspenseful whodunit, brings Roger and Suzanne back to Montevideo, Uruguay where another bloody murder needs to be solved. International intrigue, corrupt cops, and a complex plot based on current world events make this novella one of the more interesting entries in the series.

Five Quickies For Roger And SuzanneAnthology (novel length) of shorter stories: Five Quickies for Roger and Suzanne features a novella, The Empanada Affair [a completely re-written and re-edited version of the first novel in the series, a murder mystery set in Salta, Argentina which describes how Roger and Suzanne first met]; The Body in the Parking Structure [also available as a novella, described above]; The Haunted Gymnasium [a mildly paranormal short mystery story set in Fortaleza, Brazil]; The Dog With No Name [a short story for dog lovers describing Roger’s first case as a private detective]; and “Someone Did It To The Butler”, my first attempt to write the classic California mystery short story that popularized the style in the pulp magazines our grandparents read.

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