From the Author
Tellus about Clinton, the hero of your new novel.
There really was a Clinton. Hewas a hound dog, but very special--a Frenchhound. They're called Porcelaines, and they are basically used for hunting inFrance, much like the English fox hounds you see in all those old prints. Withhis white fur, interrupted by tan patches, and his floppy ears, Clinton was ourfamily celebrity. Everywhere we went, people wanted to meet Clinton and findout about him. He wore his fame with patience and grace, a very unusual dog.
Hedied last year at the age of fourteen?
That's right. We'd had himsince he was eight weeks old, so it was quite a blow. My son Joel once saidClinton was the most human dog he ever met, and I think that was true. So itwasn't just a pet who died, but a much-loved family member who had been the onecertainty in our lives for fourteen years. We all loved him so much. I stillhaven't recovered, and I don't think my wife Kathy has, either.
Sowhat was it like to write a novel about Clinton?
Heartbreaking and exhilarating,one of the most emotional writing experiences I've ever had. It was wonderfulto be able to bring him back to life and have him running happily on thebeaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Every morning when I entered the worldof the Sanibel Sunset Detective, there was Clinton waiting for me. At the sametime, it was also terribly sad because, ultimately, I had to leave that worldat the end of the day, and re-enter a world where there was no Clinton, andunderstand that he really was gone.
This is your fifth Sanibel Sunset Detective novel. How would you ratethis one?
Of course, you always love theone you just finished--and hate it, too, having rewritten and rewritten so manytimes, you see every flaw. But The Houndof the Sanibel Sunset Detective really is the one from the heart. It's anentertainment, like the others in the series, but it also tries to deal withour love of pets and how we will do just about anything in the world for them.
Whatdo you think sets The Sanibel Sunset Detective novels apart in what has becomea very crowded mystery field?
Readers write to tell me thebooks aren't like conventional mysteries, and that's one of the things thatdraws them to the stories. The novels feature "a very unlikely detective on avery unusual island." I think the unique setting of the Sanibel-Captiva Islandshelps make the books different, and it also helps that our hero, TreeCallister, really isn't well suited to the detective's life. He's not a toughguy, he doesn't like guns, and for heaven's sake, don't put him on a boat inopen water. What's more, even though he loves his new home, being a formerChicago newspaperman used to big city life, he still feels like a fish out ofwater on Sanibel. There is a mystery in each of the books, and Tree, againstall odds, more or less solves it, but sometimes not very satisfactorily--or happily.
What'smore, unusual for crime fiction, we have a happily married detective.
I wanted that for Tree when Iset out to write the novels. I am very happily married, and I was determined tohave that reflected in the books. Tree absolutely adores his wife, Freddie, can'tbelieve he's fortunate enough to be married to her. I feel the same way aboutmy wife, Kathy.
Youand Tree seem to have a lot in common.
That's been pointed out anynumber of times. When I was working out the details of my hero, I thought aboutwho would be crazy enough to become a private detective on an island wherenothing ever happens. I immediately knew who would do something like that: me!The character evolved from there, except I'm not nearly as brave as Tree. Atthe end of the day, he surprises even himself and manages to work his way outof whatever mess he finds himself in. I don't think I'd be able to do that--exceptwhen sitting at a word processor.
You'reabout to start work on the sixth novel in the series. Are they getting easierto write? Or harder?
They always have been greatfun to write. I've been a professional writer all my life, but I've neverenjoyed the process more than I have writing these books. However, thechallenge remains the same each time I sit down to write: to create the mysteryand suspense that keeps readers turning pages and have it all more or less makesense at the end--and do it with a sense of humor.