Please welcome Sasscer Hill, author of the Nikki Latrelle and Fia McKee mysteries!
As a child I loved horses, action, and adventure, and I was addicted to Walter Farley’s books. In the fifth grade our teacher asked my class to write a story. I wrote a scene with a boy and an old man trailering a horse to the races, from the viewpoint of the boy. Something was wrong, I don’t remember what, but the boy was worried. The correlation between my boy and Farley’s “Alex Ramsey” is obvious but here’s how this moment changed my life. First, I was surprised when the teacher asked me to read my fragment to the class. I was even more surprised that several kids seemed genuinely interested, and asked, “What happens next?”
There is no greater compliment a writer can get than to have that question asked, and I knew I had something. I realized maybe I had the talent needed to be an author. Unfortunately, I spent decades working in marketing and promotions for several Washington, DC associations, and two different academic book publishers. My first book, Nikki Latrelle novel, Full Mortality, wasn’t published until I was in my fifties.
When I wrote Full Mortality, I followed the old adage, “write what you know,” and since I lived on a farm outside DC, and raised Thoroughbred racehorses for thirty-two years, I knew a lot about horse racing. Not only that, it was my passion and that passion, I believe, found its way into my books. So far, the character of Nikki Latrelle has provided me with a successful four-book series.
In 2010, I found a new agent and this resulted in a two-book deal with St. Martins Press to write the “Fia McKee” series, with the first book, Flamingo Road, just out this past spring.
Fia is a female agent working for the Thoroughbred Racing Protection Bureau (TRPB), an actual US agency. The TRPB’s mission, which of course becomes Fia’s mission, is to protect the integrity of horse racing against those that ruin the sport’s credibility by cheating, scamming, drugging horses, or threatening jockeys. Sadly, there is an endless list of bad acts and bad actors that can ruin the image of the sport of kings.
Fia’s father was murdered at Pimlico Racetrack and the case was never solved. Fia, angry and resentful, becomes a Baltimore City cop. Hot headed, she’s suspended when she guns down a perp. She winds up working for the TRPB who sends her to Gulfstream Park race track near Miami to investigate why low-level horses are suddenly winning at long odds. When a horse belonging to Fia’s fifteen-year-old niece is butchered for the illegal Cuban-American horsemeat market, Fia is pulled into a doubly dangerous investigation that threatens her life and the lives of those she loves.
Out in spring of 2018, will be the second in the series, The Dark Side of Town. The manuscript for this book already won a Carrie McCray Award and was nominated for a Claymore Award!
I wanted to plunge into the next Fia McKee novel which would take place at Santa Anita Park in California. I even traveled to California and took a tour of the track and the Hollywood area nearby. I wanted a murder mystery set at this well-known track surrounded by the glitz and deceit of Hollywood.
But, suppose the first two Fia McKee novels don’t sell well? What good will this idea be then? St. Martin’s Press owns the right to “Fia McKee.” If I want to sell to another big-five New York publisher, any book I write, must be something new, which means yet another series and a new set of characters.
Since I have to hedge my bets, I’ve already started a new book–a murder mystery about the Irish Travelers here in America. By happy coincidence, the largest enclave for these people is Murphy Village, not more than forty minutes from my home in Aiken, South Carolina.
Travelers have a fascinating culture. The children are taken out of school by eighth grade, if not before, and the girls are married by contract and usually as young teens. Travelers stick to themselves and have little dealings with outsiders. Society believes the Travelers are scam and con artists. What would it be like for a girl who grows up in this atmosphere? What if she wants out? Where would she go? What would happen to her?
And so, another story has evolved, and another exploration has begun. Only time will tell which way I travel, but at least I’ll be as prepared as possible for whatever happens next.
Author Sasscer Hill was involved in horse racing as an amateur jockey and racehorse breeder for most of her life. She sets her novels against a background of big money, gambling, and horse racing, and her mystery and suspense thrillers have received multiple award nominations.
Sasscer and her mystery books can all be found at https://SasscerHill.com/