Harry DeMaio, my friend and fellow Cincinnatian, writes perhaps the most original mystery series going. He calls the four-volume (so far) Casebooks of Octavius Bear “Alternative Universe Mysteries for Adult Animal Lovers.”
A retired business executive, consultant, information security specialist, former private pilot and graduate school adjunct professor, Harry says he whiles away his time traveling and writing preposterous poems, articles, and stories.
Since Octavius Bear has at least one paw in the world of Sherlock Holmes (and the other in that of Nero Wolfe, I asked Harry a few questions about the series:
Who is Octavius Bear?
Octavius is a nine-foot-tall, 1400-pound Kodiak Bear/consulting detective/scientist/inventor/seeker of justice/mega-billionaire owner of Universal Ursine Industries/narcoleptic war hero/gourmet-gourmand/somewhat sedentary and grouchy just on general principles. He is a hybrid character somewhat loosely based on Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe with some characteristics of each but definitely his own bear.
Octavius, among his many talents and accomplishments, is a brilliant, self-taught practitioner in the wide ranging fields of biology, physics, ursinology, voodoo, teleology, chemistry, apiculture and oenology as well as a first rate electrical, electronic, structural, marine, aeronautical, mechanical and chemical engineer. He has a few other interesting characteristics such as falling into brief, deep narcoleptic comas – side effects of his successful genetic experiments to eliminate the need for him to hibernate. He, his associates and nemeses are all figments of my warped imagination.
What is the story behind the alternate universe that Octavius and his cohorts inhabit? Do you believe in alternate universes?
Answer to your second question first -YES! Let’s hear it for Quantum Mechanics.
Here’s the story: About 100,000 years ago, according to scientific experts, a colossal solar flare blasted out from our sun, creating gigantic magnetic storms here on Earth. These highly charged electrical tempests caused startling physical and psychological imbalances in the then-population of our world. The complete nervous systems of some species were totally destroyed. For example, homo sapiens lost all mental and motor capabilities and rapidly became extinct. Less developed species exposed to the radiation were affected differently.
Four-footed and finned mammals, birds and reptiles suddenly found themselves capable of complex thought, enhanced emotions, self-awareness, social consciousness and the ability to communicate, sometimes orally, sometimes telepathically, often both. Both speech production and speech perception slowly progressed with the evolution of tongues, lips, vocal cords and enhanced ear to brain connections. Many species developed opposable digits, fingers or claws, further accelerating civilized progress. Some others (most fish and underground dwellers) were shielded from the radiation and remained only as sentient as they were before the blast. This event is referred to as The Big Shock. It remains under intensive study.
Alternate universes play an increasing level of importance in each succeeding book.
Tell us about the Casebooks.
Volume One - The Open and Shut Case – a jewel theft from a Chicago museum and an attempted mass assassination in Las Vegas. The villainous Imperius Drake front and center.
Volume Two – The Case of the Spotted Band – Not the famous snake, but a rock group in Brazil (a cheetah, ocelot, jaguar and Himalayan snow leopard). Carnival in Rio and mayhem in Cincinnati.
Volume Three- The Case of Scotch – Murder in the Shetlands and strange problems in the Scottish North Sea oil fields.
Volume Four – The Lower Case – a vicious murder in Winnipeg of a very annoying voice coach cow is blamed on two of Octavius’s protégés. The Great Bear to the rescue.
Volume Five – The Curse of the Mummy’s Case – (In development) Imperius Drake returns trying to revivify an evil Pharaoh and his armies.
Who are some of Octavius’ associates?
Maury (Mauritius) Meerkat – sidekick, narrator, detective and theatrical agent
Inspector Bruce Wallaroo – Irrepressible but brilliant marsupial; an international law and order genius from Australia; often calls on Octavius and Maury for support.
Bearoness Belinda Béarnaise Bruin Bear (nee Black) – Now wife of Octavius; very rich widow of Bearon Byron Bruin living in Bearmoral Castle in the Shetlands; owner-pilot of the last flying Concorde SST; Gorgeous polar superstar, with the Aquashow, Some Like It Cold.
Otto the Magnificent – AKA Hairy Otter - An absolutely terrible illusionist magician, Otto the Magnificent escaped the claws of super villain Imperius Drake but not before he developed some amazing powers courtesy of Imperius genetic alterations.
Frau Ilse Schuylkill – Swiss she-wolf; housekeeper-cook; jet pilot and sharpshooter with other very strange and arcane abilities.
Tell me about the bad guys.
There are many but a major villain is Imperius Drake, a mad duck with dreams of world (nay! cosmic) conquest. Once a mild mannered Mandarin Duck, he is now “Moriarty with Wings.” Arch-villain, leader of the Black Quack gang, a brilliant but loony anitidae who has developed a serum to make the animal kingdom his slaves, he seeks vengeance for ridicule by the scientific community and the death of his beloved Lee-Li-Li who swallowed all of his serum in a vain attempt to stop his madness. He is aided(?) and abetted (?) by Bigg Baboon, an archetypical dumb heavy. They appear in Books One and Two and will reappear in Book Five. Other nasties include Pontius Puma, a Brazilian gangster; mysterious killers in the Shetlands (Book Three) and vicious murderers in Winnipeg. (Book Four.)
Book Four, The Lower Case, just came out. Does it differ from its predecessors?
Aside from being based entirely in one location, Winnipeg, and dealing with music and theatre, Book Four follows most of the same patterns established in its predecessors with two major exceptions. Octavius, who was somewhat sedentary in the earlier books, is much more active and directly involved in managing the progress and outcome of the case. As I mentioned earlier, alternate universes play an increasing part in the overall structure of these books. Book Four is a major example.
The Lower Case: Octavius Bear Book 4 is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.
Harry’s website is www.octaviusbearslair.com.