This is an interview I gave recently to the Virginia Beach Examiner at examiner.com
Our guest today is Greg Messel, author of the mystery romance, Fog City Strangler. Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol. Fog City Strangler is his seventh novel and is the fourth in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper. Follow news about Messel’s writings and books at www.gregmessel.com.
Welcome to my column, Greg. Wow. Seventh book. How do you do it and still have ideas for more books?
Greg: It’s hard to really explain. Sometimes the process is amazing to me. I get a basic idea of where I want the plot to go and it evolves. I had one reviewer say I always to do a “two-fer”– meaning that I always have two mysteries to be solved in each book. I don’t know why I do that and I don’t’ remember consciously deciding that. I like for my private eye to get hired to solve a mystery, meanwhile there are strange things going on in the background. I think long and hard about the plots in my mysteries but it definitely changes as I write. I got the original idea for a strangler terrorizing the city but it really changed as I added layers–like he preys on blonde women, my main female protagonist is a beautiful blonde, the billboard campaign–are all items which just developed as I wrote. I love that part about writing. I’m at that point in the writing of my eighth book. I written the characters into a corner and now I’m trying to figure out how they get out of their jam. One of the elements is the disappearance of a woman over two years ago. Suddenly, her mother gets a letter from her previously assumed dead daughter. Where has she been? That’s what I’m working on now.
Can you tell everyone what the Sam Slater series is all about?
Greg: Sam Slater is a retired baseball player. His career ended in 1957 when big league baseball came to San Francisco. Sam takes over his best friend’s private eye business when his pal is brutally murdered. At the same time Sam meets a dazzling woman–Amelia Ryan–who’s a TWA stewardess. When Amelia is not flying around the country or the world, she helps Sam solve his cases. The series is set in the late 1950s in San Francisco, which is a great setting and interesting time. Sam and Amelia are surrounded by a cast of colorful characters who intersect with their life.
In Fog City Strangler, you have a guy who terrorizes young women and then announces each murder by sending a note and a piece of cloth from each victim’s dresses to the local newspapers. Wowsers. Would you like to tell everyone more about him without giving too much away?
Greg:The Fog City Stranger thrives on fear. I studied the cases of the Boston Strangler and the Zodiac killer in San Francisco. The Zodiac killer liked to send pieces of cloth and notes to the San Francisco newspapers in the 1970s. It allowed the Zodiac to taunt the police and frighten the citizens. The Fog City Strangler is obsessed with beautiful young blonde women. He stalks them and seems to pick the perfect moment to attack the women, when they are alone. The strangler doesn’t break in but is invited into the women’s homes. The police wonder how he is doing that. He removes their nylons and strangles them with their own stockings after tying them up with white ropes. As the body count mounts the police become more frustrated. The Fog City Strangler roams the city looking for the perfect victims.
Have you ever thought about writing another genre? Sort of out of your comfort zone?
Greg: The mystery series pushed me way out of my comfort zone. Prior to the Sam Slater mysteries I wrote books about people who overcame great adversity and found romance and love in their lives.
Do you think your journalism background has helped you write your series?
Greg: I think it has helped me. Novel writing is different than writing a news story. I am still honing my skills to capture the inner feelings of the characters in my writing. I also like to paint of the picture of the world they live in, like the 1950s in San Francisco.
Biggest question of the day. Is there a book eight in the wings?
Greg: Shadows in the Fog is well underway. I should be done with it by the fall. I’m excited about it and think everyone will enjoy the further adventures of Sam and Amelia. The new book begins in 1959, on the day that Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and other rock stars were killed in a plane crash. The new year holds some very interesting surprises for Sam and Amelia. There’s even a psychic who has a storefront at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco who has visions of the past and the future of Sam and Amelia.