|I like to think this is Sebastian McCabe's car
My new book, The Woman in Red—now available for purchase but also the subject of a Kickstarter campaign—is the 12th novel and the 14th book overall in the McCabe & Cody series, with #15 now in the hands of my first reader. This seems to me a good time to interview the author. Some of the questions are ones that I’ve been asked since No Police Like Holmes appeared in 2011.
Is Sebastian McCabe a pastiche of Nero Wolfe? No. Can you imagine Wolfe smoking cigars, driving a red 1959 Chevy with tail fins, or performing magic? They mainly share corpulence and a propensity for multisyllabic vocabulary.
Are you Jeff Cody? No. No matter what my wife said. (“Yeah you
are; you’re just like that.”) Jeff has a habit of making sarcastic comments in
italics and I have no idea where they come from. (Although somebody did once
say I have a “wicked sense of humor.”) When I re-read the books, Jeff’s italic
comments make me laugh out loud and
think “I have no idea where that came from.”
What are your biggest writing inspirations? Sherlock Holmes, all the great Golden Age writers (especially Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, and John Dickson Carr), and the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal? Really??? Really. I’m constantly finding characters and situations there that are ripe for redeploying in mystery fiction.
Where does Erin, Ohio, the location of most Mac and Jeff’s adventures, come from? I really feel that it exists in some alternate universe, just as my characters do. Although it’s located about where you will find Ripley, Ohio, it’s not based on Ripley or any one small town. The map of downtown Erin that appears in No Ghosts Need Apply is based on a small river town not in Ohio, with all the street names changed.
What about the name? Erin is named for our daughter-in-law, Erin Dwyer Andriacco. The town had a different name when I first wrote No Police about 20 years before it was published. So did St. Benignus University.
About St. Benignus, which employs Mac and Jeff—where did that come from? I have no idea. But I had to create it and people it with all sorts of professors and administrators. I’ve never attended or worked at a small Catholic college, so I’m thrilled when people tell me how true-to-life it is.
What about the name of the institution? Well, that’s interesting because there’s a coincidence attached to it—if is it a coincidence. SBU, then St. Benignus College, appears from the very first book. Sometime later, I decided that Sebastian McCabe’s birthday is November 9 because that was the publication date of No Police Like Holmes (and the birthday of a fellow writer who shares my birth year). Only later did I learn, to my astonishment, that November 9 is also the feast day of St. Benignus of Armagh, for whom SBU is named!
Your newest mystery, The Woman in Red, is about a comic convention. How did you get the idea for the book? I started with the title, then I had to figure out who the woman in red was. The murder motive in this book is unique, so far as I know, and I’ve had it in mind for about a decade waiting for the right story to fit it into. I think I found it. Reading the book during the editing process, I was very satisfied with it.
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