The recent publication of my mystery School for Sleuths is the realization of a long-delayed dream for me.
I wrote the original version in 1991, which is the year in which the story is still set. Although I couldn’t find a publisher then, I never forgot the book. When I read it again a couple of years ago for the first time in decades, I laughed out loud. School for Sleuths is a fully plotted mystery with clues, suspects, and I hope a surprising solution. But it’s also a strongly comic novel.
The A-Plus Detective Agency & Famous Detectives School is rather like a barber college: Its fees are low because the agents are all students still learning the detective trade. As you might expect, these student sleuths vary in age, intelligence, and ability. But Francis Aloysius Finn, owner of A-Plus, pulls their work together to solve the mystery with the help of his super-competent secretary, Mrs. Hilary Kendrake.
The late Ralph McInerny, author of the Father Dowling mysteries that became a TV show, read the manuscript and wrote me a letter on June 22, 1991. It reads in part:
I really enjoyed SCHOOL FOR SLEUTHS! I found it funny, fast paced, extremely well constructed and convincing. The plot is very adroitly handled and you use multiple viewpoint to great advantage. The cast of students is superb, but I mainly like your main character and of course the secretary is an essential role. If there is any justice in the world, you should have a great success with this novel.
Publication eluded it, however. And although I’ve been blessed by having fourteen books see print in recent years, I knew that School for Sleuths wasn’t a good fit for either of my two publishers.
Then last year I had a great experience with Carla Coupe of Wildside Press editing a short story of mine that appeared in the inaugural edition of Wildside’s Black Cat mystery magazine. Thinking that she would also be a great editor for School for Sleuths, I sent her the manuscript. She like it, improved it with some suggestions, and now my old friend is going to see publication at last.
But I hope that is not the end of the story. I expect to send a second School for Sleuth novel, The Medium is the Murder, to Wildside by the end of this year.