Interview: Jerold Last

Please welcome Jerold Last, author of The Origin of Murder and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Most of them—surrounded by dogs and family, working at a job I love, living in California where the weather is (mostly) great. There seems to be a lot to be thankful for. On the other hand, “perfect” is a pretty high standard. Maybe more book sales would be nice, too!

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Interesting question for a male writer. Let’s go with the meal: Something Mexican, like Chiles Rellenos, or veal parmigiana.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald (aka Kenneth Millar), Dashiell Hammett.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Not usually. I concentrate better when it’s quiet. If it were music, it would be classical.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate, my favorite kind!!!!!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Galapagos CoverThe Origin of Murder takes place (mostly) during a tour of The Galapagos Islands on a small cruise ship. My wife and I took the exact same tour several years ago. Elaine kept a journal of the trip, which gave me a lot of my research source material. Most of my novels are set in South America, so this locale fit the series theme and it’s one I know from first-hand experience.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
South America, suspenseful whodunit mysteries, dogs (especially German Shorthaired Pointers), unusual and interesting places I’ve actually visited or lived in.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Roger and Suzanne have elements of Nick and Nora Charles from Chandler’s The Thin Man in their characters—wealthy enough to come and go as they please, a taste for good food and good wine, obviously very much in love with each other. But they’re also much more contemporary. Both are highly educated professionals, Suzanne a university professor and a working scientist, Roger a private detective with a law degree. Suzanne started out with a much more positive view of the innate goodness of man than she has evolved to after being involved in helping solve so many murder cases, while Roger is pretty much the same character in all the books. Roger uses deductive logic, and is no slouch at it (think Sherlock Holmes, but a whole lot tougher), while Suzanne uses a mixture of scientific deductive reasoning, an incredibly organized memory of facts, and intuitive leaps of logic to complement her husband’s crime solving skills.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, and Chuck Norris.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, James Lee Burke, Robert B. Parker, and Carmen Amato, author of a contemporary mystery series set in Acapulco, Mexico, who I’d like to meet.

What’s next for you?
I just finished the first draft of the next novel, hopefully to be published some time this summer after several rounds of editing, entitled “Hunter Down”. It will be set with a background of the Southern California hunt test circuit, where hunting dogs are tested for their bird finding and retrieving skills against a standard expected for the dogs at three progressively more demanding levels—Junior, Senior, and Master Hunter.

***

The author is a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California’s Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California. Jerry writes “tweener” mystery books (hard boiled stories that follow the cozy conventions of no graphic sex and no cussing) that are fast moving and entertain the reader, while introducing the readers to a region where he has lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers. He and his wife lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each. Jerry selected the most interesting South American locations he found for Roger and Suzanne to visit while solving miscellaneous murders. Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and Iguazu Falls are also characters in these books, and the novels portray these places as vivid and real. Jerry and his wife Elaine breed prize-winning German Shorthaired Pointer dogs; Elaine also provides technical advice for Jerry’s novels like The Deadly Dog Show and editing for all of the books.

Twitter: @JeroldLast
Blog: rogerandsuzannemysteries.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RogerAndSuzanneMysteries

About The Origin of Murder:

Armchair tourists sought for an exciting, if murderous, cruise through Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. In The Origin of Murder, Roger and Suzanne’s dream vacation turns into a nightmare as they share a cruise ship 600 miles offshore with a murderer. This recent entry into the Roger and Suzanne mystery series can be read on its own, or in order; all of the books in the series are designed to be complete stories. Currently has a perfect score of five stars on Amazon (11 reviews). Free from Kindle Unlimited or KOLL.

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11 thoughts on “Interview: Jerold Last”

  1. Welcome, Jerold. The setting sounds lush. South America is one of those places that looks gorgeous to me in pictures, but the stories of giant insects are enough to keep me enjoying it through fiction and photos. 🙂

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  2. Thanks for visiting the Mysteristas, Jerold! I love your answer to the mash-up question. I can get an immediate sense of a character who has traits of those three men. Best of luck with THE ORIGIN OF MURDER!

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  3. Mary: Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile are far enough south to be mostly in the temperate zone, with a climate similar to much of the USA. The big capital cities—Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago are more like New York or San Francisco climate wise than like a jungle. No giant insects, no headhunters, no big snakes, no lush jungles or any crocodiles. You have to get further north—Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Corrientes Province in Argentina—to hit real jungle. The Galapagos Islands are the same. The water is 60 degrees and the climate is temperate despite being on the Equator. No jungle there, either.

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  4. South America is one of my favorite places, so I’m looking forward to checking out your books. Chuck Norris?? That raises questions! I was lucky enough to do a training session with him once–fun!

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    1. Theresa: I didn’t think my readers were gullible enough to try murder by bird here. Hopefully, you’ll get a bang out of the killings.

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  5. What wonderful books and settings. One of my dearest friends lived in Salta (she’s now in BA) and my brother was also a breeder of shorthairs. It’s wonderful that you are writing middle grade mysteries. I remember it as an impressionable age where lifelong tastes were set.

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  6. I have read and reviewed Jerry’s books and enjoy the narration style. I always think of Roger recounting the stories over brandy and cigars. The Origin of Murder was a fun play on Darwin’s origin of Species, so I really learned something, too. The next one is on my Kindle.

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