I’ve always been attracted to the amateur protagonist, at least partly because I was very impressed at a young age with Travis McGee, John D. McDonald’s creation, who solved crimes and helped victims without having any sort of legal or official standing.
The first entry in my Elder Darrow series is called Solo Act.
When I started planning the series, I envisioned a series of titles with the word “Solo” in each, as a way to tie the series together. Solo Act is an amateur sleuth mystery. Elder Darrow is a bartender, not a cop or any other kind of law enforcement officer and the initial mystery he solves is very personal.
As part of my checkered past, I spent a lot of time tending bar in both classy and seedy places. You can’t be a bartender for long without realizing that behind all those faces are stories you can’t even imagine. And being a bartender allows you to be a sort of voyeur of those stories. I also spent a lot of time bouncing around jazz clubs in my youth and wanted to capture some of the flavor of that music for readers. And as a native of Boston, I wanted to catch some of my love for the city, its institutions, and its inhabitants.
Elder Darrow is the son of a Boston Brahmin whose family has been in the banking business in Boston since just after the Revolutionary War. He attended prep school at Exeter and college at Harvard but he became an alcoholic before he worked out any professional path for himself. His father would have liked him to go into the banking business but until Elder can prove he can stay sober, that’s not going to be possible. And Elder himself isn’t sure that’s what he wants.
He’s bought the Esposito, a bucket of blood bar in Boston’s South End, with the idea that he will gentrify it, turn it into a jazz nightclub. His working assumption is that by being around alcohol and drinkers all the time, he’ll inoculate himself against his addiction.
Unfortunately, Five Star, the publisher of Solo Act, made a decision not to publish any more mysteries, so it looks as if the series will be temporarily halted while I look for a new publisher. Having been lucky enough to have a book published once, I’ve learned quickly that the publishing business is extremely quirky and unpredictable. No one seems to know how to create success, which is why established writers get most of the advance money and if your first two or three books don’t sell well, you’re at a disadvantage. Still, for anyone who loves books and writing, the thrill of seeing your name on a cover outweighs almost anything
You can order the Solo Act hardcover from any independent bookstore that buys books from major national distributors like Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Solo Act is also available in e-book and hardcover formats from Amazon.com and in hardcover from BarnesandNoble.com. For five or more copies for readings, book signings, or reading groups, the publisher provides a discount code for direct ordering.
Richard Cass began writing as a poet but slowly became enamored of the possibilities of prose: first short stories, then novels. He graduated from Colby College in Maine and earned an MA in Writing from the University of New Hampshire. His short fiction has won prizes from magazines like Redbook, Writers’ Digest, and Playboy. His first collection of stories is called Gleam of Bone. Solo Act is the first in the Elder Darrow mystery series.
He is a native of Boston and a Mainer by choice and holds an MA in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, where he studied with Thomas Williams and Joseph Monninger. He’s also studied with Molly Gloss, Ursula LeGuin, and Ernest Hebert.