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).

Eduardo Gomez, a character in “The Ambivalent Corpse” by Jerold Last

What is your story?

I’m a Paraguayan police lieutenant named Eduardo Gomez. You will first meet me in the novel The Ambivalent Corpse by Jerold Last.

What is your problem in the story?

One of my other bosses wants me to help investigate a murder in Uruguay that might have neo-Nazi connections that could affect my home country, Paraguay.

Do you embrace conflict?

No, I try to use my brains rather than my considerable brawn.

How do you see yourself?

As a man trying to do the best I can in three difficult jobs, and sometimes being tugged in different directions by conflicting loyalties.

How do your friends see you?

They only see the parts of me I want them to see.

How do your enemies see you?

My goal is always that eventually they see me through the bars of a prison cell.

How does the author see you?

He hasn’t really let me have my own story yet so we have unresolved issues. I think that may change eventually, but not immediately in this series.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Only on a pretty superficial level. There’s a lot more to me that he has revealed thus far.

Do you talk about your achievements?

Often, I can’t. I do a lot of work that is best kept from the public.

Do you have money troubles?

Fortunately not. I am being paid a good salary for all of the things I do.

What do you want to be?

A good person and a good father.

What do you believe?

I believe in right and wrong, and that we are all responsible for doing as much right as we can while we’re in this world.

What makes you happy?

I enjoy my collaborations with Roger and Suzanne. They know a lot more about me than anyone else so I can relax with them and just be the real me. And I enjoy spending time around Suzanne.

What makes you angry?

Evil. Evil people. Extreme poverty and what it does to otherwise good people.

Do you keep your promises?

To the best of my ability I do. That’s very important to me, especially because of my life style.

Do you have any distinguishing marks?

You don’t need to know that.

Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?

Yes. Paraguay played Brazil in an international soccer match and tied 0-0. This was when Pele was still playing for the Brazil National team.

What in your past had the most profound effect on you?

My religious upbringing.

Who was your first love?

The lovely girl I met in college who became my wife.

Who is your true love?

My wife, even if I also have some unresolved feelings for Suzanne.

What is your most closely guarded secret?

Who my international employers are and what exactly it is that I do for them.

What is your favorite food?

I like good wines and fresh seafood. Paraguay is landlocked so fresh seafood doesn’t exist and the Paraguayan wine industry has a long way to go to catch up to Argentina in making fine wines.

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

A woman of course. I’m a South American man.

Click here for an interview with: Jerold Last, Author of “The Ambivalent Corpse”

Click here for an: Excerpt From “The Ambivalent Corpse” by Jerold Last

Jerold Last, Author of “The Ambivalent Corpse”

What is your book about?

The Ambivalent Corpse is set mainly in Montevideo, Uruguay. Our heroes find parts of a dismembered corpse on a rocky stretch of beach in Montevideo, apportioned equally between the Memorial to a German cruiser sunk in World War II and the Memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust. Because of the murder victim’s strategic location shared between two antithetical monuments, the Uruguayan press names her “The Ambivalent Corpse”. Private detective Roger Bowman and his girlfriend, scientist Suzanne Foster, find themselves traveling through Uruguay, Southwest Brazil, and parts of Paraguay and Argentina to help solve the case. Along the way they experience the local tourist attractions, lots of intrigue, and a complex murder mystery that Suzanne and Roger both play essential roles in solving. The plot races along at a rapid pace that makes this book very difficult to put down once you’ve started reading it. Start early if you want to get a full night’s sleep. This fast paced mystery has plenty of action, atmosphere, and sense of place. While the novel is basically a hard-boiled mystery story, it bends the genre slightly so that it should also appeal to readers interested in travel, romance, Indigenous creation legends, and South American food and wine. The book is getting 4- and 5-star reader reviews on Amazon and Smashwords.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

It took a while for me to find the time to sit down and start writing the book. In this case “a while” spanned 12 years. The major challenges for me are finding the time to write and the discipline to edit the dialogue and descriptive passages over and over until things feel right and pass my wife’s critical evaluation. I haven’t needed to spend much time on research as yet, since I’ve lived in the locations that the books have been set in.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

The premise of my latest book is that our heroes Suzanne and Roger find parts of a dismembered corpse on a rocky stretch of beach in Montevideo, apportioned equally between the Memorial to a German cruiser sunk in World War II and the Memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust. Because of the murder victim’s strategic location shared between two antithetical monuments, the Uruguayan press names her “The Ambivalent Corpse”. I actually got the idea for “The Ambivalent Corpse’s” book title and basic premise when my wife and I took a walk in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1999 and we saw that strange juxtaposition of the two monuments.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

The setting for my novels thus far has been South America, especially Uruguay and Northwest Argentina, both places we lived during a sabbatical I took several years ago. I’ve been back to Montevideo and Salta several times since then for collaborative research and teaching programs there, so I know the locales, the food, and the people I use for the books. Novels to come will be set in Chile, Peru, and Brazil, all places I have spent time in thanks to the various scientific collaborations that began during our sabbatical leave.

I try to write books that are fast moving and entertain the reader, while introducing the readers to a region where I’ve lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers. Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, and Iguazu Falls are characters in these books, and the novels will have succeeded for me if some of you say that you’d like to visit these places because they seem so vivid and real.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I believe my strengths are in inventing interesting plots, paying attention to story details, and entertaining the reader. The science I sprinkle into the books is authentic; I have a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry and am a Professor at a large university medical school. The locales are authentic; I’ve either lived in or visited all of the places my characters visit.

What are you working on right now?

I’m putting the final touches on the third novel in this series, entitled The Surreal Corpse. In this new book Roger and Suzanne search for a serial killer in Peru and Northern Chile. I’m also collecting ideas for Book #4.


Click here for an: Excerpt From “The Ambivalent Corpse” by Jerold Last