Monday, August 24, 2009

Bleeder by John Desjarlais

When classics professor Reed Stubblefield is disabled in a school shooting, he retreats to a rural Illinois cabin to recover and to write a book on Aristotle in peace. Oddly, in the chill of early March, the campgrounds and motels of tiny River Falls are filled with the ill and infirm -- all seeking the healing touch of the town’s new parish priest, reputed to be a stigmatic. Skeptical about religion since his wife’s death from leukemia, Reed is nevertheless drawn into a friendship with the cleric, Rev. Ray Boudreau, an amiable Aquinas scholar with a fine library -- who collapses and bleeds to death on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or bloody murder? Once Reed becomes the prime suspect in the mysterious death, he seeks the truth with the help of an attractive local reporter and Aristotle’s logic before he is arrested or killed -- because not everyone in town wants this mystery solved...

Interview with John Desjarlais:

1. Why did you write this book?

I’d been writing historical novels and wanted to try a contemporary mystery since I’ve always enjoyed reading them. But I wanted it to explore ‘higher mysteries’ of faith, love, suffering, and healing.

2. What was hardest to write about this book?

There were many more challenges with a mystery than there were with my historicals. You’d think the research would be daunting for an historical novel – and it is. But for this mystery, I had to do all sorts of research into professional areas I knew little about: blood diseases like leukemia and other medical material, poisons, police interrogation and investigative procedure, Catholic liturgy and theology of suffering. Everything must be completely authentic. Then there was the challenge of plotting a coherent and credible whodunit by following most of the time-honored ‘rules’ for the genre that readers expect you to follow. Then there was the fact that the identity of the killer was kept secret from me for a long time. The characters I suspected at first didn’t do it. That was a surprise.

3. What did you enjoy writing the most?

The End. Seriously, the ending where everything pulls together. It’s a shocker.

4. What do you hope folks will get from this book?

A sense of hope – that there can be significance in suffering. This will be poignant for Christians who can identify closely with the Man of Sorrows who is acquainted with grief. Catholics in particular have a strong theology about this, in uniting their suffering to Christ’s own Passion. At the same time, I hope readers enjoy the story and the puzzle aspect of it.

5. What's next for you?

I’m at work on the sequel that features a minor character from the first book as the protagonist. Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz learns her name has been written in a Catholic church’s All Souls Day ‘Book of the Deceased’ along with several other names – dope dealers who are being killed one by one in the order they appear in the book. Selena must work against time, the suspicions of her own Latino community, and the prejudices of a small town to help police find the killer before her turn comes up. The story will have a rich backdrop of Aztec mythology and Mexican Catholicism, and I’m doing lots of research on drug gangs, DEA operations, and venomous snakes. Oh, and guns. And fixing up vintage cars (Selena drives a ’69 Dodge Charger; she got it from her brother Antonio who was killed in a motor pool accident in Germany while on duty there with the Army and – well, I could go on).

More about John at:

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