The Moultrie News recently interviewed renowned Mount Pleasant author Brad Crowther about his latest release titled, Murder Takes the Cake, which features several elements of intrigue, drama and suspense to whet the appetite of any well-versed mystery enthusiast.
Ralph Mancini: What are some aspects of your new release that will make it a riveting read for fans of the murder-mystery genre?
Brad Crowther: In Murder Takes the Cake, a celebrity chef originally from Charleston who’s back in town to judge a cake-baking contest, is strangled walking to her downtown hotel. A Hispanic male seen crouched over her body is the primary suspect. As the son of illegal immigrants, he’s had law enforcement problems before, and he goes on the run. His girlfriend hires private detectives Edna Dugué, a blueblood who lives in a large antebellum house South of Broad, and her young, streetwise, slick-talking assistant, Jerrelle Vesey, to find the real murderer before the police catch up with her Hispanic boyfriend and kill him. Edna and Jerrelle learn that a number of people had motives to murder the chef, including an ex-husband furious about terms of their divorce; the manager of the cake-baking contest, who clashed with the chef about how the contest should be run; a corporate executive who may have been the chef’s lover; the corporate executive’s wife and daughter; and the chef’s bitter rival, who takes over as contest judge. Edna and Jerrelle also discover a connection between the chef’s death and a long-ago murder that may not have been solved after all.
RM: What is it about mysteries that has inspired you to write books in this category?
BC: I spent a lot of hours reading when I was young, and many of the books I read were mysteries. When I became interested in writing, mysteries were an obvious choice since they were what I knew best. My first memory of writing is attempting a mystery story about the abominable snowman in fifth grade. I’m not sure I ever finished that story.
RM: Who are some of your favorite detectives of all time in both literature and even television? Did you grow up reading or watching characters like Sherlock Holmes, Jessica Fletcher or even the protagonist of my all-time favorite TV series, Lt. Frank Columbo?
BC: The first detectives I read about included John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. Spillane’s final years were spent at Murrells Inlet, incidentally. Later I became hooked on Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Nick and Nora Charles; Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe; Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer; and Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. Stout’s influence shows in my novel, Murder Takes the Cake. The lead characters are from a story I wrote that won an international novella contest co-sponsored by a Nero Wolfe literary group. These days, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux is my favorite detective. With regard to television, I go back to 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye, proceeding on to Peter Gunn and The Rockford Files, then to McMillan and Wife, McCloud, Columbo, and Murder She Wrote.
RM: Can you share your background in terms of where you grew up, your day job and family status?
BC: I grew up in Ohio, Pennsylvania, California and Kentucky. I received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville, spent four years in the Coast Guard and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island. I was Executive Director of Rhode Island’s state criminal justice planning agency, then a consultant to government, non-profit, and educational organizations. Now I’m mostly retired. I’m married with a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, who also live in Mount Pleasant.
RM: How have you enhanced and/or refined your skills as a writer?
BC: I believe my greatest improvement has been in my ability to recognize weaknesses in my manuscripts and make necessary revisions. However, I still need to get much, much better at that.
RM: What are some basic tips for young people and/or novices who hope to someday write a story and get it published?
BC: (a) Read extensively in whatever genres you want to write; (b) Be analytical about your reading, by which I mean identify what it is the author is doing that really works for you: plot, characters, setting, dialogue, style of writing; (c) Compare the components of your writing with the best work of the successful authors you’re reading, and edit with a goal of achieving their standards. This doesn’t mean imitating other authors; you need to find your own voice; (d) Look for opportunities to obtain feedback from published authors, agents, and publishers; (e) Be disappointed by rejection, but don’t be discouraged and quit trying.
RM: Where can people find your book and will there be any public signings forthcoming?
BC: Murder Takes the Cake, published by Camel, a traditional press on the approved lists of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, is available for online ordering from South Carolina bookstores such as Fiction Addiction, Litchfield Books and Blue Bicycle Books, as well as from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Walmart and other sources. The book is just being released, and the only events I’ve scheduled so far are in Georgia. I’m very interested in doing signings and presentations in this area, and I’m available for most any type of gig including bookstores, libraries, book clubs, writers groups and programs at senior centers and multi-level of care facilities. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-810-7662, or visit my website, https://bradcrowther.com, for more information.
RM: What do you enjoy doing in your free time when you’re not banging away at your keyboard?
BC: I read, exercise, enjoy the Charleston area’s fine restaurants with my wife and friends, hang out with my son and daughter-in-law, and play with my grandkids.
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