Please welcome John Gaspard, author of the Eli Marks mystery series.
Lawrence Block. I started with his Matthew Scudder books, but it was his series about a burglar named Bernie that had the biggest influence on me for writing the Eli Marks series. The burglar books are light and occasionally byzantine in their structure, but always interesting and always fun.
Dick Francis. I love his ability to look at the same industry — horse racing — from a multitude of angles, teaching us about the business while in the process of telling an involving mystery. I also love the way he’s able to construct protagonists, each with their own unique flaws. The idea of the flawed hero was a big part of the construction of the Eli Marks series.
Robert Benchley. Not a mystery writer, but such a great stylist and so funny, often in an off-hand sort of way. His work, along with other great humorists like Max Shulman, Peter De Vries and James Thurber, were top of my reading list when I was younger.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Sometimes, depending on the book. When I wrote The Ripperologists, I listened to music throughout the process. One character in particular was always listening to music and any time he referenced a song, it was likely the song I was listening to while writing his scene.
Now I usually just do it while taking walks, trying to figure out elements of the current book.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’ve been wanting to do a story about a missing classic film since I started the Eli Marks series — there are definite hints that the story is coming in the last book, The Bullet Catch.
But the real inspiration for this book was watching a video of a performance by the late magician, Tommy Wonder. He was such a consummate performer and so very very very good at what he did, I wondered how Eli would respond to suddenly having such a stellar performer in his midst. That’s where the character of Quinton Moon came from. He is definitely Mozart to Eli’s Salieri.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I don’t know if I revisit any of them, but each of the books in the series (so far) have been about a strong emotion that gets in Eli’s way.
The Ambitious Card was all about guilt, on various levels. The Bullet Catch was about facing fears. And The Miser’s Dream is about the erosive power of jealousy.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Eli was orphaned at a young age and (essentially) raised by his aunt and uncle.
Aunt Alice was a firm presence in his life and any time he looks before he leaps, Eli is channeling Alice.
Uncle Harry was (and is) far more playful, so Eli reflects that in his relationships.
Another strong presence in his upbringing were the Minneapolis Mystics — an informal group of magicians who hang out with Harry at the bar next door to his magic shop. Under their tutelage, Eli learned all facets of magic, making him fairly well rounded (or at least knowledgeable) about all the different rooms that make up the house of magic.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I would imagine Eli thinks of himself as a mash-up of James Bond, Lance Burton and George Clooney. He is wrong on all three counts.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’m only going to include living writers, because otherwise I think we’d spend the whole evening explaining our iPhones to the dead ones.
Stephen Fry, Carrie Fisher, Aaron Sorkin, Simon Rich, Paul Rudnick, and Paula Poundstone.
And although I may be hosting, I should be clear on this: I won’t be cooking. We’ll be going out. And splitting the check.
What’s next for you?
I’m deep into research on the next Eli Marks mystery, which will (likely) be called The Linking Rings.
In real life, John’s not a magician, but he has directed six low-budget features that cost very little and made even less – that’s no small trick. He’s also written multiple books on the subject of low-budget filmmaking. Ironically, they’ve made more than the films. His blog, “Fast, Cheap Movie Thoughts” has been named “One of the 50 Best Blogs for Moviemakers” and “One of The 100 Best Blogs For Film and Theater Students.” He’s also written for TV and the stage. John lives in Minnesota and shares his home with his lovely wife, several dogs, a few cats and a handful of pet allergies.
About The Miser’s Dream:
A casual glance out his apartment window turns Magician Eli Marks’ life upside down. After spotting a dead body in the projection booth of the movie theater next door, Eli is reluctantly pulled into the hunt for the killer. He attempts to formulate his own solution to this classic locked room mystery while dealing with a crisis of a more personal nature: the appearance of a rival magician who threatens not only Eli’s faith in himself as a performer, but his relationship with his girlfriend.
Events come to a head when the killer starts taking homicidal steps to bring Eli’s investigation to a quick and decisive end. And then things get even worse when his magician rival offers his own plausible solution to the murder mystery! With all the oddball suspects gathered in one room, it comes down to Eli to provide the correct solution to this movie-geek mystery.