Friday, November 25, 2011


Hi Readers, are you in a mood to travel? Vicariously, of course and via our Cyber-Bus which is loaded with 15 outstanding mystery writers including me.

This is the 1st day of our Holiday Mystery Tour, and readers, do I have a treat for you!

Timothy Hallinan, an Edgar and Maccavity nominated author tells us how his latest Junior Bender novel LITTLE ELVISES was conceived and birthed. And what a story his article 'Picture Perfect' tells! Keep reading, because now I'm letting Timothy drive:
Picture Perfect
By Timothy Hallinan

 The most frequent question at bookstore events is, “Where do your ideas come from?”

Well, most of the time, they appear out of thin air.  But once in a great while something from what I try to think of as “real life” prompts a story development.  Here's an example.

Some time ago, my wife and I had the good fortune to make friends with someone whom I'm not going to name, but she had been famous for several decades due to a series of very funny books she'd written for a large audience of women who, like her, hated to cook and do housework.

We had mutual friends, but we met her face-to-face for the first time in Hawaii, when I was on my way to Asia to write and my wife was accompanying me as far as Bali.  What we had feared would be a slightly awkward lunch turned into a prolonged, delightful, and highly lubricated lunner, comprising lunch, dinner, and many, many drinks in between. 

 We were in love with her when we left, and remained so for years and years.

 She was in her early seventies when we met, and more vigorous than either my wife or I, who were in our late forties.  Ten years later, we got a note from her saying she was going to marry.  (Her first husband died before we met her.)  Enclosed were three pictures of her and her husband-to-be.

They scared me silly.

She (let's call her Margaret) was sitting on quite a bit of money; she'd sold a very large number of books.  And she was now in her eighties.  The pictures she'd sent us were Polaroids, and she looked ecstatically happy in all three of them.  I couldn't tell you how happy her fiance looked, because we couldn't see his face.

In any of the pictures.

In the first, he had his head down, and his features were obscured by the bill of his cap.  In the second, he'd turned his head as the shutter snapped, and he was a blur.  In the third, he was kissing Margaret on the cheek and her profile obscured most of his.

I immediately called to congratulate her and to grill her diplomatically about him.  She'd known him forever, she said; he'd been a friend of her husband's and was, in her words, richer than God.  I relaxed and offered an unnecessary blessing, and the two of them lived happily until Margaret passed away.

 But in the nasty, nefarious part of me that makes bad things happen to good (if imaginary) people, those photographs had taken root.  I thought about them almost every time I wrote a book, but the opportunity to use them never came up until my new ebook, LITTLE ELVISES.

The hero of LITTLE ELVISES is a Los Angeles burglar named Junior Bender, who moonlights as a private eye—for crooks.  That's a good way to make dangerous enemies, so Junior lives in a succession of dreadful motels in an area—the San Fernando Valley—that's especially rich in dreadful motels.

His first day on his new case has been a bad one; he's just been shot at.  Already unhappy at this turn of events, he becomes even more unhappy when he sees there's a light on in the room adjoining his, which gives him pause, because he's rented it, too.  (An adjoining room can be used as an escape route.) 

But the room's occupant turns out to be Marge, the surviving owner of Marge 'n Ed's North Pole, the motel of the week, and Marge has a problem: her daughter has disappeared after running off with a man of whom Marge instinctively disapproves because he wears a pinkie ring.  Junior tries to fob her off with assurances until:

“Look at these.”  Marge dug into a purse the size of a saddlebag and came out with two color snapshots.  She dealt them at me, giving each of them an expert, Vegas-worthy flick that carried them from one bed to another.  I picked them up and found myself looking at two shots of the same couple.

The female was clearly the issue of Marge's loins, if the pronounced nasal apparatus and the long upper lip were any indication, but the man was a complete mystery.  In one shot, he was shading his eyes from the sun, and he'd tilted his hand down until nothing showed but his mouth, and in the other, he'd turned his head away at the last moment, creating an interesting modern abstract where his face should have been. 

Not good.

Marge said, “Tell me about that.”

“Okay,” I said.  “I'll think about it.”

And he does.

So it took 30 years, but I finally got to use Margaret's Polaroids.  And they lead Junior toward a monster who preys on the lonely and the unhappy.  And, at the end, a big surprise. 

Okay Guys, I'm back in the driver's seat again.
I know you're dying to learn more about Timothy, so here's the scoop on him:

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the traditionally-published Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers (most recently THE QUEEN OF PATPONG), and the Junior Bender mysteries, which are ebook originals.  The newest Junior book is LITTLE ELVISES.  Earlier this year, Hallinan conceived and edited a volume of original short stories by twenty first-rate mystery writers, SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, which is available for the Kindle at $3.99, with every penny of the price going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.  (Please buy it.)  He lives in Santa Monica and Southeast Asia, and he is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy.  His website is


Thanks a million Timothy for this fascinating story. Of course we're all dying to know who 'Margaret' was, but then again we all love solving mysteries.
Timothy will give away a set of his Poke Rafferty Bankgkok thrillers at the end of our Holiday Tour. To get your name in the hat for the drawing, make a comment on each of the 15 participating blogsites. Our group is giving away more than 50 books during the 2-week period.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and please leave a comment. You'll be glad, because, besides the other author's books, you'll be in a pool to win a copy of THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE or STATEHOOD HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL.

See you tomorrow!




Jackie King said...

Thanks for this amusing story, Tim. It's wonderful to have you at COZY MYSTERIES AND OTHER MADNESS. I know you don't write cozies, but your mysteries have great humor, and I think everyone who stops by will love them for that reason.

Everett Kaser said...

Good writers write good stories from good inspirations. Great writers write great stories from even the most mundane events. Great story, Tim!

Anne K. Albert said...

Wonderful example of where story ideas come from! And like you, Tim, I had a recent experience with my own 'Margaret'.

This poor woman's first husband tried to kill her, so to say she's vulnerable with a bad track record is an understatement.

The new man in her life is a con artist. I tried to warn her, but she refused to listen...and now I'm in her bad books.

I imagine the marriage will last as long as her money. Sad, but true. It just goes to show real life is stranger than fiction!

Timothy Hallinan said...

Hi, Everyone -- The Virtual Juggernaut Blog Tour is up and running, and I've never been so relieved in my life. My blog went up in the middle of the night, as I told it to, without my having to sleep on my keyboard to make sure, and here I am, and here I am on Jackie's blog and there M.M. Gornell is on mine, and here are some wonderful reader at 9 AM.

Great to be here, thanks for the kind words, Jackie, Yo to Everett, and Ann, that's a terrible story. There's one much like it in the prodigious new Haruki Murakami book 1Q84, and it ends tragically -- a woman who just instinctively chooses the wrong man but who's totally on top of her life in every other way.

Lubna said...

@Timothy: Here, I find you. I love the term lunner, hope I get to have an interesting lunner, sometime soon, with interesting people. It was a a lovely insight, how you tucked away an interesting tit-bit and used it in your novel.
Now Jackie, I can't wait to read more about you, on another blog, of course. The clue hunting continues and I've come all the way from India.
lukathewriter (at) gmail (dot) com

Jean Henry Mead said...

What a greast story, Tim. I've enjoyed your previous books and have asked Santa for Little Elvises.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jackie for introducing us to Tim and thank you Tim for such an interesting article. I really want to read that series now!

Jackie King said...

Hi Everyone! I got up at a ghastly time this morning to post notices on ListServs, FB, etc, and then went back to bed. Well, I'M BACK!

I'm having a heck of a time staying online, though, but now am finally back. Dont' know what's causing that.

Everett, liked your comment! Both wise and true. And your name, and everyone elses who commented, is in my black fedora and ready for my drawing.

Tim will have his own!

Jackie King said...

Anne and Jean, So happy to hear from fellow travelers from our fun tour. I've been over to Jean's blog this morning and now am headed to Anne and Tim's.

Jackie King said...

Lubna, You have a lovely name and live in a lovely country. I see that you're also a writer, and that always makes me smile. I'm so glad to make your virtual acquaintance. (I'm sure that you can see I'm a bit old-fashioned.)

Welcome and come again.

Jackie King said...

Kristin, thanks for stopping by, dear friend. Your name is now going into my fedora, as is Lubna's.


Timothy Hallinan said...

Well, lookit all the people, and such nice people. If this was a good post, it's because I wrote it early in the process -- some of the later ones are pretty dire, and I apologize in advance to those who eventually read them.

Hi again, Lubna -- wish I were in India. Or anywhere, actually. Thanks for getting involved from such a great distance.

Kristin, thanks for the nice words. The Junior books are pretty funny although, as Jackie notes, not exactly cozies. But they're probably too high-spirited to be hard-boiled, despite the occasional ancient Anglo-Saxon vulgarity.

I have to admit, this blog tour terrified me as a prospect but, as is so often the case, it's fun as a reality.

Jackie King said...

Tim, I've always said that old ladies and cats get a bad rap. Not that any of the other gals who commented are old, they are not. But still...

Pat R. said...

Love the story - brightened up my day and made me very, very curious.

john M. Daniel said...

Highly entertaining post, Tim. Of course I have no idea whatsoever who "Margaret" really was, but while I'm name-dropping, I can say that one of my high moments as a bookseller was to take a phone order from Peg Bracken while I was working for a bookstore in Palo Alto, back in 1964.

Timothy Hallinan said...

Oh, my God, John. You're psychic. She was one of the greatest people I ever knew, and it was a privilege to be her friend and a great relief when it turned out her hubby-to-be was a good guy.

So, Pat, if that's what you were curious about, "Margaret" was indeed the one and only Peg Bracken.

Alice Duncan said...

Enjoyed your post, Tim, and loved LITTLE ELVISES. Keep it up :-)

Earl Staggs said...

Very interesting, Tim. As you described, I've saved some ideas for a long time waiting for the right opportunity to use them. I still have quite a few, still waiting. I think I'll like Junior Bender.

Timothy Hallinan said...

Thanks, Alice -- I really appreciate the nice words about LITTLE ELVISES. Worked all day today on Junior Bender #3, THE FAME THIEF and had a great time with it.

Hi, Earl -- don't know if you saw the Woody Allen documentary on PBS this week, but he writes down everything on whatever is at hand and throws it into the bottom of a suitcase. Then, if he doesn't have a new idea for a movie, he sits on the bed in his hotel room and just pages through them. The camera man asked him to read the one he had in his hand, and he read, "A man inherits all the tricks and equipment of a great magician," and then put it down, and I was thinking, "Wait, WAIT. That's a GREAT idea."

But he dropped it back on the pile.

Anonymous said...

Well phooey. I went and read the post, now I want to read the book, and I'm not (normally) a mystery reader. However, I think I'm slowly being converted by all the great mystery writers I meet through blog tours and such. It's good though, a little variety always makes life(even reading life) more interesting. One more book on my "must read" list. Thanks for the fun post and joining the blog tour Tim. ~Nita

Jackie King said...

Nita, You made me laugh. I'm the same way...a total book-a-holic. About the time I swear I'm going to quit buying books until I'm caught up with the ones I have, along comes another that is a MUST READ!

Thanks for stopping by, dear friend. Your name is in my Fedora for the drawing.

Jackie King said...

A special thanks to all of my tour buddies who stopped by. Alice, Earl and John, you're the best.

And Tim, I KNEW you were talking about Peg Bracken. I have loved her forever. When I was a young mother struggling with three babies (born within 3 and 1/2 years) her columns kept me laughing and sane.

john M. Daniel said...

Tim, my wife still cooks one of our favorite recipes from the I Hate to Cook Book: chicken with mushrooms and artichoke hearts. And I invoked Peg Bracken's name just last night when I repeated her scorn for toaster covers—just one more thing to keep clean.

Timothy Hallinan said...

Well, I didn't actually think anyone would figure it out, but it can't do anyone any harm now since everyone involved (except for my wife and me) has passed on. But knowing her was a great treat.

Carol-Lynn Rossel said...

What a delightful story! Put my name please into the hat for the book drawing.

Jackie King said...

Carol-Lynn, Delighted to have you aboard the tour and your name is in my black fedora. Tim keeps his own list of names for his drawing. So the good news is, you're now in two drawings!

I hope you drop by each day to chat.

Theresa de Valence said...

I'm not sure that I really understand the rules of this blog tour, but I've developed an interest in Timothy Hallinan, and some other authors, so I'll be trying to find out.

And of course, I'd love to win books!


Carol M said...

I really enjoyed your story! I'd love to read your Poke Rafferty Bankgkok thrillers! Thank you for the giveaway!

Jackie King said...

Hi from me, Theresa and Carol M. So glad you dropped by to check on Timothy's post. It was really great, wasn't it?

Both of your names go into my black fedora for my drawing. Tim keeps track of the names for his drawing.

Isn't this fun?

Timothy Hallinan said...

Hi to all who logged on in the past few days.

Theresa, I feel like we already know each other, but it's easy to win. Just follow the ever-moving blogs of the writer whose books you want most, and we'll be choosing names at the end of the tour -- or anyway, that's how I'm doing it. Three comments over the two weeks will qualify everyone for the drawing. Hope you win!

Carol M, thanks for reading this and commenting on it. I hope you win, too, and that you enjoy whichever book it is.

And finally, thanks again to Jackie. I've had a great time.

Jackie King said...

Theresa, on my blogsite COZY MYSTERIES AND OTHER MADNESS, right side it says PAGES. Underneath it says MYSTERY WE WRITE HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR. If you click on that, you will see a complete list of the participating author's links. Choose which ever you want, or click through all of them.

Whenever anyone leaves a comment on this blog or on the blogsite where I'm a guest, their name goes into my black fedora. For my contest, the more times you comment, the more chances you have.
Best Wishes,

Jackie King said...

Tim, You have been a wonderful guest. I've had a wonderful time, too. And it just seems to get better and better.

Riss said...

I'm getting to this a little late but what a wonderful start to a tour through the Blog-o-sphere! (c: I'm going to go hunt down more these to read!

Jackie King said...

Riss, I was delighted to see your post! And for sure there's lots of good reading in this group of 15 writers. I'm reading THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, myself, just now and loving it.

You name is going into my black fedora for my free book drawing at the end of the Tour.