Welcome Albert Tucher, author of numerous stories featuring prostitute Diana Andrews, including “Sensitivity Training: in the Busted! anthology from Level Best.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Get a workout in first thing, then off to the local Barnes and Noble for writing time. My favorite table is free, of course. Write my thousand words without excessive teeth grinding. Note that I haven’t mentioned going to work. I have been a public librarian for almost forty years, but retirement is beckoning with increasing urgency.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Coffee. At the Newark Public Library I am legendary for my consumption.
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
That’s hard to pin down. I had been reading crime fiction for thirty years before I ever tried to write it. By that time I think everything I ever read had been steeping somewhere in my mind.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Barnes and Noble takes care of that. Whatever they’re playing is fine with me. I write there because I like a certain amount of commotion around me. Tuning it out helps me concentrate.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Eighty-six percent cacao, and dark, dark, dark.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
To me Hawaii is the best place on earth, and the Big Island is my favorite island, but not for the usual reasons. I like the rainforest side more than the sun and sand of the Kona side. In Sensitivity Training Officer Jenny Freitas finds herself wilting under the Kona sun, and I feel the same way. I love to walk the streets of Hilo and look out at the bay. The dark clouds that almost always obscure the horizon make the place feel like the edge of the world. I get rained on a lot there, but that doesn’t bother me a bit.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I’m fascinated by the incongruously violent history of Hawaii, which seems to consist of incessant warfare. The modern equivalent of this history is the persistence of crime in such a beautiful setting. The rainforest region known as Puna has seen some terrible crimes, which I have called upon for material. Some names to Google: Dana Ireland, Ken and Yvonne Mathison, Brittany Royal, Boaz Johnson.
Tell us about your main character.
Okay, stay with me. My original series character is an escort-level prostitute named Diana Andrews. I have published more than seventy short stories about her. She also stars in a series of six novels, of which only the first, The Same Mistake Twice, has been published. She is based in northern New Jersey, but in the third novel, called Tentacles, I send her to the rainforest of the Big Island with a client who neglects to mention that some nasty people are after him.
A supporting character from that book is Detective Errol Coutinho of the Hawaii County Police. Ideas for stories featuring him started to bubble up and demand my attention, and my recently published novella The Place of Refuge is one result. Coutinho has acquired several sidekicks of his own, including Officer Jenny Freitas. When I got an idea that required a young woman protagonist, she was ready and waiting. So, Jenny is a spin-off of a spin-off.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
For this question I need to return to my roots, meaning Diana Andrews. Start with Scarlett Johansson for beauty. Add Helen Mirren for poise and unflappability. Finally, a touch of Rhonda Rousey for the tough chick thing. Am I in love with her? Yeah, probably.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’d have to expand the definition of mystery to include crime stories, which would allow me to invite Shakespeare, Mary Shelley and Charles Dickens. Now it’s a question of who wouldn’t be intimidated by them. Ruth Rendell, Robert B. Parker and Elmore Leonard would keep the pot boiling. As a bonus, Master Will could tell us once and for all, “Yes, I wrote the damned plays.”
What’s next for you?
Two more Errol Coutinho novels. One is called The Hollow Vessel, and the other doesn’t get a title until it stops fighting me every step of the way.