Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guest Author/Blogger, Carl Brookins Shares "The Birth of Sean NMI Sean, PI, and the Minnesota Crime Wave


By Carl Brookins

Truth be known, there’s almost no connection between the two. Once upon a time I was happily contemplating a long and fruitful downwind run with my sailing companions from my first published novel, “Inside Passage.” I work out of a fairly messy office in the basement of our home. It does have a nice little fireplace for those cold Minnesota nights and it’s arranged so I sit with my back to the door. There’s a detail you may wonder about. Observe life around you. Cops and P.I.s always try to sit with their backs to solid walls. That way, they see who approaches. Fewer surprises.
This particular afternoon I was writing away when an idea wormed itself into my head. For a novel, but there was no way it could fit my sailing series. I pushed it aside but this guy persisted and showed me a stack of files.
“You,” he muttered “are gonna write my stories.” He was short and slim and steely-eyed and the worm in my head enthusiastically connected with him. Thus was born Sean NMI Sean. As a randy teen I read westerns and detective novels voraciously. My favorite detective was the Los Angeles agent of author Richard Prather. Shell Scott was a creature of the nineteen forties. He was a tall former marine who’d been traumatized in the war. He was adept with weapons, appreciated and slept with many different women, and solved mysteries for paying clients. There was another aspect: the more Shell Scott I read, the more I laughed, sometimes out loud. This author was slyly poking fun at the whole crime genre. Could I get away with that and use the idea worm and its cousins? I decided to try.
Sean is the antithesis of Shell Scott in many aspects: he’s too short to be a cop, doesn’t sleep around, doesn’t use his weapons except in last resort and he tries his best to fit in wherever an assignment might take him. His best male friend is a cop and his lover stands head and shoulders over him, even in her bare feet. Sean has rules. He doesn’t mess with divorce, avoids the Mafia and international criminals whenever possible. He hates horses and he almost never goes out of town. He’s thoughtful but he’s not as clean as one might think. He’s successful because he’s discreet and while he uses various police department resources when he can, he reciprocates by conducting illegal searches and he frequently breaks other laws in order to assist law enforcement as well as himself. He maintains other contact. I knew he’d need access to a variety of resources so I gave him an important law firm. The law firm is prestigious. The other element I wanted was conflict over modern technology. So only a basic computer, no cell phone (until his latest adventure) but he’s smart and knows when he needs help so Sean has cultivated a relationship with a firm down the hall from his office, a couple of Scandinavian computer whizzes who are not above pushing the legal envelope for Sean on occasion.
Although he is reluctant to take on complicated cases involving international operatives, Sean’s latest case does indeed involve the dire and unintended consequences of stolen art work from a tiny Polish town that shows up in Minneapolis. In “The Case of the Purloined Painting,” Sean matches wits with stone killers from an unnamed European country and sees justice done. Barely.
Most authors discover additional responsibilities come with the territory when they are published. To some degree, we are expected to market and promote ourselves and our novels. Almost fifteen years ago, three crime writers in the Twin Cities looked at each other and decided they could be more effective in promotion if they worked together, drawing on strengths of each and sharing the workload. Traveling together to distant events turned out to be a plus. And because Ellen Hart, William Kent Krueger and Carl Brookins turned out to be very compatible, the Minnesota Crime Wave perseveres to this day.
One cannot be intensely focused on work all the time. Or, at least, one should try to appreciate some of the funny things that come along. Some people assume that because our events are performances, a little theatrical in nature, that we aren’t serious about our writing. That assumption is seriously wrong. We do however, recognize that levity can be attractive, hence the costumes. We also affirm that good food and laughter are vital to both mental and physical health. Hence the costumes and the props. Ice breakers allow us and the
audiences to connect more readily. We have the results. National tours, hundreds of events east of the Mississippi and more on its western shores, a weekly television series, a national newsletter, a web site and the publication of three successful anthologies of short crime fiction, “Silence of the Loons,” “Resort to Murder,” and “Thirteen tales of Mayhem and Murder.”
What keeps us together is trust, honest appreciation and mutual respect, plus an open and well-run financial operation. And of course, the fun and enjoyment we experience while traveling about in the crime mobile and eating. Ellen Hart, an award-winning novelist is also a trained chef. She guides our meal choices and won’t let us eat in questionable restaurants.
As we age and our circumstances change, the Minnesota Crime Wave becomes more or less active. However, our relationship is strong and productive and if you keep watching, you’re likely to see us motoring down the road again. And always remember when the Crime Wave is on the move, we know where you live.

Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors.

He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

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