One of the things about traditional publishing that has always gotten my hackles up is the genre-specific marketing that rules it. Through the 70s, 80s and 90s there was a very literal plague of novels that were doomed from the outset by being miscast to fit available slots.
In particular, a lot of novels were slapped between paperback covers with raised foil lettering and lots of blood in the imagery that were labeled “horror”. These books came out like clockwork, sat on the shelves a short time, and disappeared to be replaced by another round of the same. I actually had an agent during that period who told me I missed a chance. I was out at sea, and could have been published in the big horror glut of the 80s, but there was a slot, and a time-frame and I missed it. Didn’t matter if the book was good, just that it existed. I’m sort of glad I missed out on that.
Anyway, a lot of good books got labeled incorrectly during that period, and among those books were a series of police procedurals that happened to include serial killers and some violence, by Paul Dale Anderson.
Paul is with Crossroad Press now, and we are re-structuring his series INTO a series and marketing them more appropriately. Don’t get me wrong. Horror readers will enjoy these but they are more accurately categorized in the bigger world of mysteries and thrillers, and they are definitely a series, though until now they have not been marketed as such. We have a brand new book in the series due out soon… so I thought I’d have Paul write about these – where the inspiration came from (shades of Kay Scarpetta). Without further ado, I give you:
An Introduction to Paul Dale Anderson’s Instruments of Death series
I lived in Chicago and worked at the American Society of Clinical Pathologists’ Chicago headquarters, directly across West Harrison Street from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, when I wrote Claw Hammer. My ASCP job was to sell continuing education classes to pathologists, and I got to sit in on many of those classes because I was the person who registered them for various courses. I set up microscopes in classrooms at conference centers, ran the overheads and slide projectors, hawked new books published by the Society or the College of American Pathologists, and hosted elaborate cocktail parties for the Docs at national medical conferences. One of those ASCP classes featured the latest techniques of tool mark analysis available to forensic pathologists interested in identifying the instrument of death, and I was fascinated to learn about the variety of ways people quite often used common household implements to kill beloved family members and friends.
That class reminded me of several terrible tragedies that had happened to grade-school classmates of mine in my own hometown of Rockford, Illinois. I recalled awakening one dawn to the sound of sirens when I was only about eight or nine. I learned that a neighbor had allegedly gone crazy during the night and killed his entire family—all but one daughter who survived–with a claw hammer. The milkman, the same milkman who had just delivered milk to my house, discovered the bodies when he entered the neighbor’s house to put milk in the refrigerator. as he normally did twice a week. In those Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver days of the early 1950s, people were very trusting and nobody ever locked their back doors. All that changed, of course, after an entire family was killed in our close-knit suburban neighborhood. It never dawned on us that locking the doors would do no good if the killer lived inside the house and had keys.
Not long after that first tragedy, the mother of another female grade-school friend was electrocuted in her bathtub. Supposedly, a radio fell off a shelf and added 110 volts to an afternoon bubble bath and fried the lady like a lobster. Police arrested the lady’s husband and charged him with her murder. My young friend had to leave school to go live with her grandparents. I never saw her again.
One of my favorite uncles, Eric Ekebom, was a Rockford police detective sergeant and I remember asking to see his gun when I was too young to know any better. He told me he hadn’t had to use his gun even once in more than twenty years on the police force. He did carry a gun, he explained, but he said he really didn’t need one because “Good detectives use their brains and not guns to catch criminals.” I’ll always remember that. Eric was the detective who reorganized the Rockford Police Department’s record bureau in the 1930s. He became the police department’s forensic and identification expert, and he served as the President of the International Association for Identification, the largest forensic organization in the world, from 1956 to 1957.
When Pinnacle Books bought two of my novels and wanted them delivered right away, I wrote a rough draft of Claw Hammer and sent it off with the expectation I would have time to revise and polish the manuscript. I had one day between the time I received the page proofs and the deadline for getting the completed novel back to New York in time to make the publishing window. I over-nighted the proofs back. I have never missed a writing deadline in my life. In the old days when I was learning the newspaper business, we published what we had in order to make a deadline even if we didn’t yet have the full story. “Go with what ya got,” the editor called out as the deadline approached. Some stories were incomplete or inaccurate. We knew we always had the next day’s edition to round out the details or publish a correction. I’m glad Claw Hammer endured to see a next edition.
Claw Hammer was my first published psychological horror novel, and since its original publication in 1989 I have written nine additional suspense-thrillers/police-procedural novels set in imaginary Riverdale, Illinois. Riverdale is a combination of my native Rockford and Aurora and Oak Park, plus images from a dozen other northern Illinois cities where I’ve lived and written novels. Carl Erickson, the homicide detective from Claw Hammer, also appears in Pickaxe, Icepick, Sledgehammer, Box Cutter, and Pinking Shears. After Carl retires, Troy Nolan and Andy Sinnott take over Carl Erickson’s roles, both detectives appearing in Pickaxe, Icepick, and Meat Cleaver.
My comfort zone is sitting at my keyboard inside my own house writing novels and short stories or reading novels and short stories for review. When Gretta M. Anderson, my wife of 27 years, died three years ago, I abandoned the real world for multiple fantasy worlds where I could control the outcome of human interactions. Writing kept me relatively sane. Andy Sinnott is a lot like me. But you already guessed that, didn’t you?
I write not only for me and to maintain sanity, but I write for people just like me—and like you, dear reader–who love to read a good mystery. I try, first and foremost, to tell a good story because I love good stories. Some of my stories get really weird, and many of my characters bleed and feel pain and some die. I view the world as a dangerous place where bad things happen to good people. Not all of my stories have a happy ending. I hope you’re as glad as I am that Icepick does end happily for most of the characters. You’ll meet many of the same characters again in other novels. Unfortunately, not all of them survive.
I am neither a medical doctor nor a forensic scientist, nor am I a police officer or a civil engineer. I have, however, worked with medical doctors, forensic scientists, police officers, and civil engineers, and I have two earned master’s degrees and most of a doctorate. I have done extensive medical research for more than twenty years. I always try my best to be accurate in my descriptions of medical and police procedures. I also served time in the military, including tours in construction engineer units, and I am familiar with a variety of firearms. Nevertheless, my novels are works of fiction that spring from my imagination, and I do take liberties with verisimilitude in order to tell a good story. For me, story comes first. If you want fact-filled books, I can recommend a few textbooks you might find interesting. If you want good stories, read my novels.
** Editor’s Note**
We are PROUD to bring this entire series of books back in digital, and new additions in all formats, and even happier to bring some very cool mystery thrillers to a new readership who probably would never have picked up a Pinnacle Horror novel back in the day. Gotta love being “the publisher”.