Jerold Last, Author of “The Body in the Bed”

What is your book about?

The newest entry in my South American mystery series brings my series characters P.I. Roger Bowman and his wife Suzanne back to Montevideo to attend a festive dinner honoring their friend’s promotion to police captain. There’s a surprise guest waiting for them when they get to their hotel room (hint: the title of the book is “The Body in the Bed”). Roger and Suzanne are the lead suspects in a murder, their allies on the police forces of Uruguay and Paraguay may be the targets of a conspiracy, and nobody can be trusted. This fast paced, action filled, novella should satisfy readers of the previous books in the series as we renew acquaintances with old friends and enemies, and say farewell to one of them. Readers new to the series can enjoy this book as a stand-alone introduction to the region and to the series characters.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite?

Roger Bowman is a private detective. He has been a police detective and a patent lawyer in his earlier careers. Suzanne Bowman (née Foster) is a scientist, a professor of biochemistry at UCLA Medical School whose work includes collaborations with scientists at the University of the Republic. I first introduced Eduardo Gomez, a Paraguayan policeman and more, in “The Ambivalent Corpse”, the second book in this series. Eduardo actually did a guest interview on one of Pat’s other blog sites shortly after “The Ambivalent Corpse” was published, when he indicated that he wanted to play a bigger role in subsequent novels in the series. He has gotten his wish in both of the novels set in South America since then—“The Surreal Killer” and “The Matador Murders”—and now in this novella, “The Body in the Bed”. Of all of my recurring characters, he has the most depth and, at least for me, is the most fun to play with while more and more is revealed about his very, very complex life and loyalties.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

Some of the background for the plot dates back to the first time I lived in Montevideo for a summer in 1982 and the second time I lived there, in 1999. The material was updated by searching the Internet and from knowledge I acquired during multiple return visits I’ve made to Montevideo since 2001.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The descriptions of Montevideo, a city of almost three million people that is the capital of Uruguay. The basic premise of the plot, which is taken from the current news media. The characters, which have been central in three previous novels in this series, all set in South America. The whodunit aspect of the plot that encourages the reader to try to guess who the killer is before the detectives figure it out.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My work has brought me to Montevideo for two sabbatical leaves for teaching and research at the local public university, The University of the Republic. I have also collaborated on research and graduate student training with scientists in Montevideo for more than a dozen years after that second sabbatical. My experiences in South America, especially in Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, have stimulated my interest in writing fiction set in the region to introduce readers to the places and people my wife and I have enjoyed so much.

What are you working on right now?

My wife breeds and shows German Shorthair Pointer dogs. She has been urging me for more than a year to get a dog for Roger and Suzanne, especially now that they have a toddler, and to write a book set in the world of dog shows and dog breeders. That is the underlying premise of the novel I’m currently beginning. I also have another novella in progress. In this book Roger and Suzanne visit The Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, and take the 5-day cruise my wife and I took a decade ago and that Charles Darwin took more than a century ago. Of course Suzanne will find a body floating in the Pacific Ocean and there will be another mystery to solve.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

Being responsible for marketing the books I write. I’d love to just write the books and let someone else try to sell them for me. In addition, my motto as an independent author has been “don’t quit your day job”, so finding the time to write, do book promotion, teach, do research, serve on committees, and spend time with my family is challenging. There’s never enough time to get everything done. I think I do the worst job on book promotion, which may be the best choice for me by default.

What do you like to read?

Hard-boiled mystery novels, preferably with a P.I. based in California as the protagonist. For me the classics are Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald. I also like Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series a whole lot, even if it was set in Boston and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series set in Louisiana. I like writing hard-boiled novels even if the noir world I try to recreate in my books is based on the oldies but goodies a lot more than on reality.

What writer influenced you the most?

Probably Dashiell Hammett for plot style. The storyline of “The Matador Murders” was patterned after Hammett’s first novel, 1929′s “Red Harvest”. Almost certainly Ross MacDonald for character motivation of my bad guys, who tend to be pretty evil villains. And all of the old timers for the character of the private detective, who solves the murders because someone has to because it’s how justice is achieved, and generally the conventional police can’t because there is too much politics, policy and procedure, and corruption in their daily lives to do the job properly.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, I have. “The Body in the Bed”, a novella, is Book #5 published on Amazon in my South American Mystery Series and Book #6 featuring Roger and Suzanne. A previous novelette, “The Body in the Parking Structure”–Book #5 featuring Roger and Suzanne–is also published on Amazon, but takes place in Los Angeles, California. Books #1-4 are novels set in South America and include “The Empanada Affair”, “The Ambivalent Corpse”, “The Surreal Killer”, and “The Matador Murders”.

Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

Yes, it does. I usually find the story takes on a life of its own and my original choice of whodunit, and sometimes why they done it, changing as the story gets written. This can be scary at first, but in the long run it allows for a good deal more creativity in plot and characters in my opinion.

Who designed your cover?

For this book, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the cover to look like before I began and found the image that ended up on the cover by myself. My friend Caitlin Harley, a graphic artist, fixed my original version of the cover by playing a little bit with light and shadow to enhance the contrast of the lettering and to highlight the mood of the image.

Where can people learn more about your books?

The author’s blog (which can be found at the URLs at the end of this answer) contains excerpts from, and some background material written about, each of the published books, as well as links to the book pages on Amazon. There’s also quite a bit about me, my life, and my impressions of the creative process on this blog, as well as invited contributions from several other writers including our hostess, Pat Bertram. Visit the blog at (US) or (UK).

One Response to “Jerold Last, Author of “The Body in the Bed””

  1. Sheila Deeth Says:

    Your books sound fun. I struggle with the marketing thing and don’t even have the excuse of a day-job (unless housework, yardwork etc counts). Your characters sound really nice, and if they’re going to get a dog… I have to try to find time to read your series…

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