Wednesday, July 30, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with 'Murder at Eastern Columbia' Christopher Geoffrey McPherson

In more than three decades as a professional writer/journalist, Christopher Geoffrey McPherson has covered myriad subjects and interviewed thousands of people from the famous to the unknown. He brings his years of experience to each one of his novels.
Every work is different. Through reading his novels, you can visit the American home front in the 1940s, a future San Francisco wiped out by a killer earthquake, a romantic love affair in post-war Paris in the 1920s, a future planet where the major industry is making babies -- or an exciting detective series set in 1930s Los Angeles.

In his career, his work has appeared in daily newspapers, monthly magazines, extensively on radio and the occasional dalliance with television. He has written advertising copy and radio commercials -- and continues to write. 

Christopher is currently working on a series of novels that take place in 1930s Los Angeles called “The James Murray Mysteries.” Books in the series are "Murder at Eastern Columbia," “Sabotage at RKO Studio” and the newest “Abduction at Griffith Observatory.”
Other works featuring his byline include "The Babi Makers" -- a science fiction tale about a world where the most important resource is babies; "Sarah & Gerald" -- a novel about Paris in the 1920s; "Forever - and other stories" -- a collection of short stories; "The Life Line" -- the novel of the big one that levels San Francisco; "News on the Home Front" -- a novel of two friends during World War Two; and "Mama Cat" -- a book for children. Also, several short plays, a few radio plays and a boatload of radio documentaries.

For More Information

  • Visit Christopher Geoffrey McPherson’s website.
  • Connect with Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Visit Christopher blog.
  • More books by Christopher Geoffrey McPherson.
  • Contact the author.
About the Book:

Los Angeles. 1931. Your name is James Murray. You are a clerk in the Junior Boy's department at the swankest new department store in downtown. You want to be a writer, but there's a Depression on. Suddenly, you find yourself trying to solve the murder of your best friend. Will you be able to find the murderer before it's too late?

"Murder at Eastern Columbia" is two novels in one: two parallel stories, featuring two heroes, working two murders in two different versions of 1930s Los Angeles. Join James and his alter ego as they each try to solve the murder of the girl with sorrel-colored hair. Follow the twists and turns until the climactic scene atop the tallest building in all of LA: the brand new Los Angeles City Hall.

For More Information

  • Murder at Eastern Columbia is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Download at iTunes.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Read more about the James Murray Mysteries.

Welcome to the PUYB Virtual Book Club today, Christopher!  I would love to start out the interview by having you tell us how you got started writing historical detective books. 

Christopher: With few exceptions, all of my novels and short stories have been historical fiction. When I sat down to create “Murder at Eastern Columbia,” it was going to be just another stand-alone novel about a young man who wants to be a writer and the hardboiled investigator he creates for his novel. I had previously had a policy to never write sequels or a series; but I fell in love with the main characters in this novel and it seemed like they had a few more good stories in them, so “The James Murray Mysteries” series was born. As I had created a detective character for the first novel, I ended up having a series of detective stories.

Is it the genre you have always wanted to write?  Do you have any favorite authors of that genre?

Christopher:  I read a lot of biographies and histories of the early twentieth century and really just wish I could have been alive during those wonderful, exciting, creative years. So, until a time machine is invented, I’ll just have to create my own worlds.

Your book, Murder at Eastern Columbia, sounds absolutely awesome.  How did you come up with the idea for this? 

Christopher: Thank you. I’ve been in love with historic Los Angeles since I was a kid growing up in Phoenix. We’re practically neighbors! We would always vacation there and I was just enthralled. As I got older I became fascinated by the history of movie making in Hollywood. I researched and learned more. Eventually, I decided I needed to write a novel based on historic Los Angeles. My spouse, Matt, and I took a trip there in 2009. We walked the whole of downtown, just taking in the ambiance and history. Slowly, a story started to form in my mind about a young man (like me) who wanted to be a writer (like me) and wanted to create a novel that took place in downtown Los Angeles (like me).

One of the things that sets this novel apart is that each chapter is named after a different building in downtown Los Angeles. It serves as something of a roadmap to help the reader follow James and his alter ego as they try to solve the murder.

Can you tell us more about your main character, James Murray?

Christopher: James Murray is perhaps my favorite of all the characters I’ve created over nine books. He’s young, idealistic, believes in the inherent good in all people. He gets out of college just as the Great Depression takes hold of the country. He wants to pursue his writing, but he has to work. He’s the only one in his family with a job and times are tough. He takes a job at a swank new department store in downtown Los Angeles, and is glad to have it. He makes friends with some of the movie stars of the day, and some of his coworkers. Suddenly, one of his co-workers is found dead and James is tasked with finding whodunit. Think of it as a young Mickey Rooney suddenly thrown into a James Ellroy mystery.

As I mentioned previously, it was not my intent to do a series with James, but I knew he had more adventures in him. And now, I’m enjoying exploring his life as he goes through the ups and downs of growing up.

With his first novel a success, James is hired by a movie studio to write a script based on his novel, in the second James Murray Mystery, “Sabotage at RKO Studio.” Here he discovers the politics of filmmaking, what goes on behind the scenes at the studios, and finds himself trying to figure out who’s been sabotaging films on the lot, including the upcoming studio blockbuster, “King Kong.” 

In the third novel, “Abduction at Griffith Observatory,” James is in his first adult relationship. He starts to learn how hard it is to forge a bond with another person. He gets involved in a kidnapping at the observatory which sorely tests that relationship. As James tries to solve the mystery of the kidnapping, he sees the ugly underside of people who are filled with hatred and who openly discriminate against blacks, Jews and other minorities. He begins to mature as he stands up against this discrimination.

I’m currently writing the fourth book in the series with plans for the fifth in which James continues dealing with growing up and finally (maybe) finds happiness at the end.

In a book of fiction, there’s always that pivotal point where readers just have to keep reading.  Can you tell us what yours is?

Christopher: I’d like to think it would be the first page of the book where the investigator wakes up with his hand around the handle of an ice pick jabbed into the chest of a dead girl. But, although I tried to make every chapter end as a little cliff hanger to make people curious to see what happens next, I think the “can’t turn back” moment would be in chapter eleven. Here, the investigator is having lunch with his girlfriend, the raven-haired dame whose sister was the one with the ice pick in her chest. She’s explaining how she and her sister met the man who she thinks killed her sister. It’s the beginning of the unraveling of the mystery.

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?

Christopher: Well, I’d like to give them one word of caution: don’t believe everything that any character says in “Murder at Eastern Columbia” or any of the other James Murray Mysteries. There are so many pieces to the puzzle, including a handful of red herrings (clews, not real fish) that should keep them guessing. The really astute reader will start to figure out what’s going on before the big reveal. But so far, based on the reviews for the book and comments from readers, no one has figured out the real solution to the mystery until it was presented. It’s a big surprise, and I’m kinda happy about that.  I hope my new readers will enjoy going along for the ride.

Thank you for having me on your page. I enjoyed it!

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