I discovered David R. Dowdy’s book The Pull and Kick Murder on Goodreads a few months ago and couldn’t wait to read it. I was able to get a Q&A with the author and have included it below for those who’d like to learn more about this book and the author. I’ve also included my book review for The Pull and Kick Murder below.
The Pull and Kick Murder by David R. Dowdy
Blurb: Woodward High’s annual contest to determine the captain of the swimming team has come again. When a star swimmer is found murdered in the pool, an unlikely pair are thrown together to find the killer. Follow the story as a shady Detective Lieutenant and a highbrow philosophy teacher tries to solve the case. How far will the detective go? What drives the teacher to work with the detective? – Goodreads
I’ve had my eyes on The Pull and Kick Murder for some time and was lucky enough to receive a copy from the author. I was hooked by this book just after reading the first few pages as the story unfolded.
The book begins with Mr. Haynes, a well-respected philosophy teacher who teaches at Woodward Highschool. Aside from reading Socrates and discussing morals in class, some of the students are involved in the high school swim team and it’s time for the new team captain competition. Jack Harrier and Harry Dawes, two of the swim competitors, aren’t interested in a fair tournament and they’ll do whatever it takes to stop a fellow student from winning the competition. Jack wants to be the new team captain and he’s not taking no for an answer. Not long after the race, a student is found murdered and two unlikely partners will be put to the challenge of solving the case. The book becomes a whodunit mystery with clues, twists, and turns that grip you until the surprising end.
The character development was spot on. The writing is profoundly descriptive and with such a strong plot and characters, it felt like I was immersed in a captivating episode of “Law and Order.” I had people envisioned in my mind for each character as I read along. The story is very convincing and felt remarkably true to me. I enjoyed the banter between Mr. Haynes and Detective Sparrow who must work together against Sparrow’s wishes to find the perpetrator. As more clues emerge, Haynes might have a lesson or two of his own to share. This was one of my favorite components in the book.
I haven’t read a whole lot of crime fiction, but if I can find similar books in crime fiction, I’d make it a favorite genre for sure. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime and mystery books. 5*****
My Q&A with author David R. Dowdy
Could you tell readers a little bit about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
One of my earliest jobs was caddying for old rich guys at Forest Lake Country Club in Bloomfield Township Michigan. I went to the stand where the golfers drove up and dropped off their clubs. My guy had one of the worst no-name sets I’d ever seen. The woods were worn and dull and the irons dinged. So, I was thinking, there’s no big tip coming.
I carried the bag to the first tee and there was just one other caddy and “his” set of clubs were beautiful. We talked a bit and the golfers came up. Would you believe it? The one who came up and introduced himself to me was Ernie Harwell, the legendary, preeminent radio announcer for the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The one I listened to every ball game day. The one who announced the World Series the Tigers won in 1968.
No set of clubs would ever be that light. I practically flew around the course. The best thing was hearing his folksy, smooth, Southern voice. It was just like he sounded on radio only not transistorized! His playing matched his worn out, amateur clubs, but it didn’t matter. This man, to me, was a giant. It turned out, the tip was typical. I took it, shook his hand, and thanked him. Inside I was giddy and still am.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
For some reason, I was academic in high school. Not always the best grades, but I had a yearning to learn. Unfortunately, I was torn between arts and sciences. I loved Chemistry, Economics, and Physics, and somehow hated Math. On the other side, English, Mythology, Philosophy, Investigative Paper beckoned me.
Journalists were gods at the time. They’d turned the political world upside down. I read everything in the news and I felt writing had something going for it. So, that’s when I knew I wanted to write. But, the volcanic forces of basic needs erupted and I turned to engineering as a career path. Hanging on barely was the desire to write. Even though I went on to become an engineer, I still found time to write short stories and poetry. Nothing monumental because I hadn’t put enough time into them.
How does writing make you feel and does it come easy for you?
Writing makes me feel in control. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction and power when I’ve created something unique and solved a problem. It has become easier in the sense that knowing story structure and the mechanics of writing means I take less time planning and editing. But, I wouldn’t say easy because creating something in fiction that sounds plausible takes time and a lot of thought.
What are your writing plans for the future and is there anything you’re working on now?
*This answer contains spoilers*
I plan to keep writing mysteries featuring Haynes and Sparrow who solved the case of The Pull and Kick Murder. If I’m lucky, I’ll keep writing until my mind gives out, so that could be a long time. Currently, I’m planning and doing some early sketches of a mystery with my investigative duo and a high school female teen protagonist.
What’s the publishing process been like for you and how do you market your books?
As I went directly to self-publishing The Pull and Kick Murder, I have no idea what it’s like to work with a publisher. Maybe I’ll have the chance someday. For now, writing a novel and making it available on Amazon and all the other online outlets is enough for me. If a publisher wanted to pick me up, I wouldn’t be against it. As for marketing, I have Goodreads and Amazon author and book pages. I have done giveaways on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m fishing for reviews!
Who are some of your favorite authors and were there any that heavily influenced your writing?
James Joyce showed in Dubliners how important characterization is and how personality affects everything. I learned from Patricia Highsmith the brilliance of how evil can infect a person without them realizing it. Graham Greene writes about the nasty people who inhabit our world. To Hammett, there’s always a quick bon mot. And Salinger understands how inner dialog is often the story if not the theme.
What is your favorite childhood book?
The Cat in the Hat. Wrecking the house on a rainy day was something I enjoyed as a kid and TCITH showed me that it was OK if one tidied afterward. I also enjoyed the Bible Stories and the oversized illustrated dictionary we kept.
What do you consider literary success?
Having my work read by thoughtful readers who generously provide feedback through reviews. Whatever comments, I will churn them back into my writing.
What would you say are the hardest tasks when it comes to writing?
Creating a lush plot (sounds like a garden!). The Pull and Kick Murder is linear in my opinion and I would like to use it as a springboard to a more complex novel.
Finding the correct voice for characters.
Showing characters coming to terms with what they thought they believed, throwing away the disbelief, and embracing the truth.
When it comes to writing, what tools do you use? (Pen, type writer, or computer) Do you outline?
First, I outline with a pen in my notebook, usually by creating a premise and drawing a sketch or two of how the story should proceed. Then I graduate to Microsoft Word and begin to write intensively. I cross things out of my notebook as I use them. Although I may write the first chapter first, my writing does not go from start to finish. There are times when I have five pots cooking on four burners.
What inspired you to write The Pull and Kick Murder?
Someone close to me in my childhood suffered a suspicious death and the truth never came out. I asked myself ‘why?’ for many years. Then, when I realized the power of mysteries, my appetite grew. I realized that writing was something I needed to do and the genre was familiar. The Pull and Kick Murder offered a chance to right a most evil wrong in a purely fictional book.
How long did it take you to write this book?
From writing initial ideas in a notebook to reading and correcting the proof, a little over two years. I’ve had some of the story in my head for years. Often, ideas linger in a writer’s mind over their lifetime and I know that was my experience.
What was the most difficult part for you when writing this book?
Creating the suspense when writing the twists and climax. They were also the most rewarding and memorable times. It was difficult writing about the devastation that occurs following a murder.
How much research did you do for the book?
Quite a bit as I’m always concerned about being precise and getting all the details right. For example, I had to learn how to swim the breaststroke and put myself inside the swimmer in such a way that a true swimmer would believe it to be true. I hope I’ve succeeded, but we’ll see!
Also, I had to learn how an investigator goes about his or her job, especially how they read suspects and use follow up questioning.
Did you make any major edits to it?
I’m not afraid to write something and rewrite or even delete it. It’s just necessary to become clear. Often, I would read something later and find that it wasn’t good. As for major edits, yes that happened several times. An unfinished story is in flux so there’s always an opportunity to improve it.
Are any of the people, places, or events in the book based on any truth?
Definitely! My high school philosophy teacher is there front and center and nearly everything about him is true. The high school, Natatorium, and the city are from my youth. Of course, The Pull and Kick Murder is entirely fictional.
How did you come up with the character names in the book?
*This answer contains spoilers*
Lew Haynes: Lou Hayner was my philosophy teacher in high school. Altering his name was easy.
Ian Sparrow: Sparrow’s don’t fear much and they’re always looking into their surroundings. Ian is my son’s first name.
Billy Touraine: He’s renamed after a great friend, Bill Tourville, from high school who was on the swimming team. Bill, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry you had to fictionally die and I hope you’re in good health!
To go into the other main character’s names might reveal too much. Secondary characters come from people I know. Alex is the nick of my son’s middle name Alexander and the male protagonist from a novel that I couldn’t complete. Kunta is a great name from someone I worked with. Yolanda is a wonderful lady from Peru who cleaned at my previous job.
The ending was such a surprise for me! Did you have any other alternative endings for the book?
Yes, because my characters weren’t cooperating and they were keeping things from me. At times, I had envisioned two other characters each as the culprit. But, the more I wrote (I had a plan and it morphed on me), the more I loved their flaws and everything. I had so much invested in them, they were innocent. To have used either one would have been asinine.
After reading your brother’s review for the book, readers will learn that your book was kept secret from your family until after it was published. What made you decide to keep the book a secret and what was your family’s reaction when they found out about it?
It wasn’t as much secret as it was risk avoidance. I felt if I had let on too early, my book would have become a weight of questioning when I would ever finish. Towards the end I told a few people at work who I had become close to, but only when I knew the book was inevitable. You may have read the first review on Amazon where my brother Jeff was surprised that I had kept the book secret. The second review is from my brother Mike. I was so happy to get those reviews!
Who designed the cover and did you have a part in it?
I get full blame or credit for the cover. Create Space provides the dimensional specifications. I chose one of the stock layouts. Later I realized that I could have done better. I searched for a stock photo and when I discovered the one at the top of my final cover, I was enthralled. The guy is coming up and taking a deep breath and his hands are outstretched. I imagined in that half-second he’s offering something spiritual in himself. Immediately, I purchased the photo and stuck it over a blood red swatch where I put the title. That’s the current and last edition.
If The Pull and Kick Murder were adapted into a movie, which actors would you choose for the main characters?
Haynes: Ben Affleck
Sparrow: Samuel L. Jackson
Damon: Dane Dehaan
Evelyn: Sigourney Weaver
Beth: Angelina Jolie
Alex: Christian Bale
Jack: Zack Effron
Billy: Robert Pattinson
Mykayla: Selena Gomez
How do you feel about e-books vs. print books?
To each his own. However, e-books have never appealed to me.
When reading The Pull and Kick Murder, I couldn’t help but think about some of my favorite crime shows like Law and Order and CSI. Do you have any favorite TV shows or movies? Anything that inspired the book?
I have only Netflix for TV and even so I avoid crime documentaries. I would rather read about human chemistry, motivation, and criminal tendencies from fiction and biographies. Among others, I watch Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse for entertainment. For movies, I like film noir. Radio mystery such as Suspense is very inspiring.