The Lovely Pines (A BJ Vinson Mystery #4) by Don Travis
Cover Art: Maria Fanning
Sales LInks: DSP Publications | Amazon
More links below
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Don Travis here today, talking about characters, the evolution of his BJ Vinson Mystery Series and the latest story, The Lovely Pines. Welcome, Don.
Winery Worker Gunned Down in Middle of the Night
Police Investigating Whether Murder is Connected to a Prior Break-in
This was likely the Albuquerque Journal headline in my fourth novel in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines. The killing follows what seemed a harmless act of simple vandalism, a break-in at the Lovely Pines Winery and Vineyard. With this, the story is off and running. Readers meet old friends and are introduced to new ones. BJ’s there with his significant other, Paul Barton, his business partners in Vinson and Weeks Confidential Investigations, Hazel and Charlie Weeks, old Mrs. Wardlaw, the across-the-street widow who’s a retired DEA hand. And, of course, there’s Lieutenant Gene Enriquez, BJ’s old riding partner from his days as an Albuquerque Police Department detective.
As an author, it’s amazing to me how new stories play off old ones. BJ’s involvement in The Bisti Business is what sent the winery’s new owner, Ariel Gonda, to him for help. I’ll swear, I had no inkling that Ariel would reappear down the line when I named him the Swiss national treasurer of Alfano Vineyards in Napa Valley. In fact, we never met Ariel in Bisti. He was just a name. But he stuck with me and muscled his way into my book. And most people figure authors create characters. Often, the truth is that characters in our heads create authors.
The book’s blurb gives you the flavor of the novel:
When Ariel Gonda’s winery, the Lovely Pines, suffers a break-in, the police write the incident off as a prank since nothing was taken. But Ariel knows something is wrong—small clues are beginning to add up—and he turns to private investigator BJ Vinson for help.
BJ soon discovers the incident is anything but harmless. When a vineyard worker—who is also more than he seems—is killed, there are plenty of suspects to go around. But are the two crimes even related? As BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, follow the trail from the central New Mexico wine country south to Las Cruces and Carlsbad, they discover a tangled web involving members of the US military, a mistaken identity, a family fortune in dispute, and even a secret baby. The body count is rising, and a child may be in danger. BJ will need all his skills to survive because, between a deadly sniper and sabotage, someone is determined to make sure this case goes unsolved.
Now let me give you a short scene that comes at the beginning of the fifth chapter of the book, which will explain the imagined headlines above:
The phone rang at five thirty the next morning. Paul groaned and turned over. I swore for the thousandth time to delist my home number from the directory.
“Vinson,” I mumbled into the pesky instrument.
“BJ, this is Ray Yardley.”
I sat up, suddenly wide-awake. “Why is the state police calling me at this ungodly hour?”
Ray and I met back when we were both APD cops. We’d worked together on a couple of cases before I got shot and he went over to the state boys. He was a good man. Must be. He was a lieutenant now.
“Your client insisted I call you.”
“Bless my client. Which one should I thank?”
“Fellow by the name of Gonda out at the Lovely Pines Winery. There’s been a homicide involving one of his employees, and he said you were working on something that could tie in.”
“Who got killed?”
“A fellow by the name of Zuniga. Bascomb Zuniga. Know him?”
“Talked to him yesterday for the first time. He seemed like a decent kid. When did it happen?”
“Sometime last night. Fill me in on your involvement, will you?”
I took Ray through the situation and asked if I could walk the scene of the crime.
“Not right now. The crime scene boys still have it. Hell, I don’t even have access yet.”
“Who has jurisdiction?”
“When the call came to central dispatch, it was routed to us. We’ll probably retain control, but Sandoval County has a deputy out here. An officer named Roma Muñoz. Know her?”
“No. She have any experience?”
“Been a member of the department for ten years now. I’ve worked with her before. Prickly but competent. I’ll put in a good word for you. Why don’t you drive on up and wait for us at the house? Your client’s pretty broken up. We had to physically remove him from the crime scene and forbid him to return. And we could use some help making sense of things. His English deserts him, and he shifts into a foreign language now and then. Sometimes it sounds like French and sometimes it sounds like German.”
“He’s a naturalized citizen from Switzerland, so it’s probably a little of both. It’ll take me better than an hour to clean up and get up there. Will you still be around?”
“Oh yeah. I’ll meet you at the Lovely Pines. That’s a hell of a name, isn’t it?”
“But appropriate. It’s a pretty place.”
I hung up and found Paul staring at me through sleep-filled brown eyes. “What’s up?”
“I am, I guess. One of Ariel Gonda’s people got himself killed last night. You catch some more z’s. I’ll try to be quiet.”
“Naw, I’ve got to get moving anyway. I’ll fix breakfast while you shower.”
Now they say I have to tell you something about myself. Sometimes I think that I write stories because my own life is so boring. There’s not really much to tell. I grew up in southeastern Oklahoma as a tubercular child, a mama’s boy who lived in libraries. Believing I could not physically participate in sports, I developed absolutely no interest in them, thereby putting miles between me and my peers. College sent me to Texas; the US Army, to Germany. That is when I found out I could do anything anyone else could do… sort of late in life to learn that. I painted still-lifes for a while but gave up painting to return to writing. I wrote and sold sixty or so short stories under a pseudonym, published seven novels under that same name, but wanted to write mysteries under Don Travis. So I did. And here we are. Hey, I warned you it was boring.
What am I up to now? Abaddon’s Locusts, my fifth BJ Vinson book has been put to bed by DSP Publications and scheduled for release January 22, 2019. Once again, I reached back to Bisti for some of the characters and set a lot of the action on the Navajo Nation reservations in New Mexico. The sixth, The Voxlightner Scandal, is abirthing in my computer as we speak.
Many thanks to Stella and Melanie at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for allowing me to guest post this blog. This is not the first time they’ve been so kind, and it’s sort of hard to let them know how much I appreciate it.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!
I encourage personal contact by readers. They don’t know it, but I draw on them like some old vampire for literary sustaining energy. My personal links follow:
And some buy links for The Lovely Pines:
Again, thanks to Stella and Melanie, and a shout-out to DSP Publications—without which there would be nothing to read.