Malice in Memphis is a local group of mystery writers and as you’re doubtlessly aware by now, we have published our first anthology of mystery shorts, BLUFF CITY MYSTERIES. The two commonalities that run throughout all fifteen stories is that they are set in Memphis Tennessee and there’s an unsolved murder. What happens next lies strictly within the imagination of the individual writers.
SILVER STAR, penned by today’s guest, James “Jim” Paavola is one of those stories that linger long after you’ve turned the last page. It has been said that mystery writers, generally speaking, are on a quest for justice and fair play, factors which are woven throughout this short story. The story opens with the nighttime discovery of a body in the shadow of downtown Memphis—behind the FedEx Forum, within two blocks of the sounds of Beale, four blocks east of the crowds emptying from the Orpheum Theatre, and across the street from the unassuming outline of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Jim is a gifted writer and has published four full-length novels in his Murder in Memphis series . . . so far. You can find each of them on Amazon, among other venues and they include: They Gotta Sleep Sometime, Which One Dies Today?, The Chartreuse Envelope, and Blood Money.
Dr. James “Jim” Paavola has been a psychologist for over forty years. His areas of focus have been children, adolescents, families, and the educational system. Jim began writing at age sixty-four. He is currently working on his fifth novel in the Murder In Memphis series—murders investigated by fictional Memphis Police Department Lieutenant Julia Todd. The stories are set in Memphis, and highlight topics of the day, such as the economic collapse, the stock market, bullying, retirement communities, the health insurance industry, money laundering, Mexican cartels, and proposed non-discrimination protection for the LGBT community.
A.S. Tell us two or more little known facts about your location?
J.P. St. Pat’s played an active role during the racial tensions of the 1960’s. It was one of the first churches in Memphis to enthusiastically seek and support a racially integrated congregation. The church clergy and members carried out a social justice agenda—feed the poor and tutor the children in one of the city’s larger housing projects. St. Pat’s was often the sight of planning sessions for protest marches and civic action. The iconic I Am A Man placards displayed in the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike were created by a St. Patrick parishioner’s printing company.
A.S. Why St. Patrick’s Cathedral?
J.P. St. Pat’s has always been committed to actively serving victims of poverty and racism. The final steps of the murder victim in The Silver Star took him to St. Patrick’s in search of peace for his soul and justice for his victimization.
A.S. What inspires you to write?
J.P. Some form of bullying plays a role in each of my four books in the Murder In Memphis series—domestic violence, classic school bullying, abuse, and assault, as well as greedy individuals and companies who mercilessly rip people off . . . because they can. My novels highlight a ruthless hedge fund manager who seeks to regain her money at any cost; school bullies whose impact is felt across generations; a disreputable health insurance company that allows subscribers to die in order to pad their bottom line, and Mexican cartels whose disregard for human life knows no limits. The as-yet-unpublished/untitled fifth novel in the series involves hate crimes targeting homosexuals.
A.S. What other genres have you written in?
J.P. To date, all my publications are murder mysteries involving the fictional Memphis police Lieutenant Julia Todd and her investigative team. I started writing in retirement, publishing my first novel at age 66. This was followed by three other police procedure books in the Murder In Memphis. I donate a portion of sales of these books to the non-profit organization supporting law enforcement in Memphis and Shelby County. The fifth book in the series is due out in 2015. I’m also branching out into the paranormal mystery genre in the form of two short stories to be included in the next Malice anthology.
A.S. That is so awesome! Where can readers find you?
J.P. Copies of my books can be found in Memphis at the main library, The Booksellers of Laurelwood, and The Trolley Stop Market. Paperback copies are also available at Amazon.com and B&N.com (if you click on the title links above, they will take you directly to the Amazon site). E-books are available at the usual dot com sites (e.g. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Sony, the Apple Book store, etc.). Signed paperback copies of my books are available at http://www.jamespaavola.blogspot.com.
Thank you for talking with me today, Jim. Before we go, let’s take a closer look at SILVER STAR. The body of a nameless, one-armed, African-American male is discovered. A missing person report reveals an Iraq War veteran, a recipient of the Silver Star for heroism, who survived the war only to be murdered in downtown Memphis. His final minutes are spent trying to protect a young white girl from being assaulted. The bond between the injured girl and the dead veteran gives the girl courage to overcome her fear, help police find his killer, and deliver justice for them both.
Here’s an excerpt:
Back at the Regional Forensic Center, Bailey winced as he came through the door. The morgue’s antiseptic smell was strong, but not enough to mask the odor of death. Sales stared at the body.
“Doc, you okay?” Bailey asked, crossing the room.
“I’ve been in this business a long time,” she said quietly, her eyes glistening.
“This one getting to you?”
“I’ve seen lots of things, Sergeant. Horrific things. Every once in a while I feel such a strong bond.” She paused, shaking her head faintly. “Look at these scars covering his left side, his face and head. Chunks of his body gone, not to mention most of his arm. He’s obviously had major surgeries, and physical therapy would have hurt. He went through hell for his country, for us…for me. Then he comes back to Memphis only to run into an American terrorist. Yeah, he got to me. This John Doe screams for justice. Me, too. You find that SOB.”
If you, reader, have any questions for Jim or any of the BLUFF CITY MYSTERIES writers, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Also, don’t forget: you can find BLUFF CITY MYSTERIES in both print and e-book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and our publisher, Dark Oak Press and locally, the book is available at Book Stop Plus in Bartlett.
Join us next week, when we will meet Carolyn McSparren, novelist and editor for BLUFF CITY MYSTERIES.