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).

Jerold Last, Author of “The Matador Murders”

Welcome, Jerold. What is your new book about?

This is the fourth volume in my South American mystery novel series, featuring Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster. Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster are back in Montevideo, Uruguay after being summoned by a late night phone call. One of their friends is suspected of murder and needs their skills as detectives to help clear him of the charges. Life for Roger, and especially for Suzanne, is more complicated these days as they now have an infant son, Robert. The three of them, accompanied by Robert’s nanny, Bruce, fly to Uruguay and the game is afoot. Before long we have our heroes directly in the middle of a gang war, off for a quick trip to Chile to learn all about the local crime scene, and meeting some unlikely allies in their mission. The book features lots of action, a good whodunit storyline, guest appearances from several old friends and an old enemy from previous books in the series, and occasional opportunities for sightseeing and eating regional specialty foods.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I’ve lived in Montevideo and worked collaboratively with colleagues in Uruguay and Chile, so know Montevideo, Santiago, Valparaiso, and Vina del Mar pretty well. Our oldest dog, Vinia, is named for Vina del Mar. I enjoy travel, and wanted to share these exotic places (at least for most of us) with my readers. The story was inspired by one of the classic mysteries of Dashiell Hammett (one of my all-time favorites), “Red Harvest”, which has a similar premise to the central plot in “The Matador Murders”.

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

About a year or so ago, one of my main characters in this book, The Paraguayan policeman Eduardo Gomez, gave you an interview in character about his role in an earlier novel in this series, “The Ambivalent Corpse”, on your blog. He complained a bit then about wanting a bigger part in these books. He gets to be a major character in this book, along with Roger and Suzanne, my recurring series characters. I like Eduardo, who is becoming a favorite of mine for the stories set in South America because he is so complicated and does so many different things.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I have the plot outlines and most of the early scenes worked out in my head before I start writing. Or at least I think that I do. Sometimes the story takes over and I follow it rather than vice-versa. That happened in “The Matador Murders”, which started with a different villain and a very different theme of a classic locked room murder case.

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

My wife and I have been to all of the places in these books, so the settings are authentic, but some of the visits were several years ago. That includes places to visit, restaurants, museums, etc. I try to get all the facts right, so use the Internet to check maps and street names; update highways, buildings, and roads in post-earthquake Santiago; hotels, restaurants, and wineries in Montevideo, and so forth. Suzanne’s science is also correct, or at least feasible with current technology.

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

I want to entertain, to create a fast-paced whodunit mystery that will challenge the reader who wants to play detective, and to make the reader feel like they’ve been there in South America, even if only vicariously.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

Finding time to write and edit the book. I work full-time, so the writing has to happen nights and weekends. It is even harder to try to carve out time to try to promote these books. This seems like a good place to say “Thank you, Pat” for the help you give to independent authors like me in bringing their work to a larger audience that might never know this series existed without the access you are making available on your blog.

That’s very kind of you to say, Jerold. I’m always glad to do what I can to help. How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Let’s see. I want to do my next South American mystery novel with Roger and Suzanne visiting The Galapagos Islands off the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. That was definitely one of the highlights for us as tourists in South America. Our summer vacation this year took us to Dinali National Park in Alaska for animal watching. I’d like to take Roger and Suzanne there, perhaps in a novella or other shorter format. And my son wants to collaborate on a novel with Roger and Suzanne solving a murder case in the Washington, D.C. suburbs where he now lives and where I used to live a long time ago. There are also a few more floating around in the mix.

What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?

Surprise!!!!! I like reading mystery novels, especially the California mystery novels of my favorite authors, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Michael Connelly, Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series, and Robert Crais. Wandering out of California, it’s still mystery novels, especially Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux stories.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

I think I’d pick Ross MacDonald’s “The Chill”. I like all of his books, but that was the first of the California P.I. novels I ever read and it’s the one that got me hooked on the genre.

If your book were made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

For Roger Bowman, I think I’d like to see Ben Affleck if it were a movie, perhaps Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Westen on USA’s Burn Notice for the TV version. For Suzanne Foster-Bowman, Kristanna Loken, who played Painkiller Jane on the Syfy Channel’s series of the same name, might work well. Eduardo Gomez is a little older and a lot bigger, so perhaps a former football player like Howie Long would be a good choice of actor.

Have you written any other books?

The Matador Murders, set in Montevideo and Santiago, Chile, is the fourth book in this series, following The Empanada Affair, set in Salta in Northwest Argentina, The Ambivalent Corpse, set in Montevideo, Uruguay and the surrounding region, and The Surreal Killer, set in Peru and Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert region. All of these mystery novels are available as Kindle E-books from Amazon; the first two books are also available from Smashwords, Apple, Nook, Kobo, and most other e-book dealers. A fifth book in this series, The Body in the Parking Structure, an 11,600-word novelette set in Los Angeles, is also available from Amazon.

Who designed your cover?

The covers on three of the novels are photographs from the region. The Ambivalent Corpse features a picture taken by my wife, Elaine, of Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, located on the border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Elaine also took the photo of Macchu Pichu that graces the cover of The Surreal Killer. The cover of The Matador Murders is a photo of Pocitos beach in Montevideo, where we lived and some of the action in the novel takes place. I guess I designed these three, for better or for worse. The cover of The Empanada Affair is an original painting of the local mountains by my closest colleague in Salta, Argentina. The first cover on any of my books designed by a professional graphic artist, Caitlin Harley, graces the novelette The Body in the Parking Structure.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

Lots of details about the books and me can be found on my blog at

Click here to read an Excerpt From “The Matador Murders” by Jerold Last

Title: The Matador Murders
Author: Jerold Last
Genre: Hard-boiled Mystery
Price: $3.99 (Amazon), at