As soon as anyone who asks what motivated me to write a novel finds out I was an English major, that simple fact seems to be explanation enough. We all wanted to write a book back then, but in my case, it took several decades and a detour as a real estate attorney to get around to it. The jolt of my 60th birthday and the realization that time was no longer on my side was finally the push I needed, although a conversation with my daughter sent me down the non-fiction path first (Serendipity: Seemingly Random Events, Insignificant Decisions, and Accidental Discoveries that Altered History) before I could focus on my first love — crime fiction.

I’ve had a special love of mystery novels since an early age, sneaking in post-bedtime reading of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe stories by flashlight under the covers. It seemed a natural fit when I set down to begin my own journey, I’d follow them down the same dark alleys. The result, Heirs Apparent and the subsequent books to come featuring reluctant sleuth Malcom Winters, are my loving homage to the classic American detective novel and my own modest contribution to the genre.

And Malcom does find trouble. Starting with only a cryptic message about an event from a century ago written in the blood of the woman he loved, he races around Chicago piecing together increasingly baffling parts of the puzzle in an effort to solve the crime and gain his vengeance. Together with the help of a brilliant and beautiful science professor, a gruff chef who claims to be in witness protection for trying to assassinate Fidel Castro and a cross-dressing businessman, he uncovers a bizarre murder spree and draws the attention of the killer to himself and those few people he holds dear.

The process of putting that story together was tortuous but fun, frustrating but rewarding. My characters had the bad habit of taking me off in directions I didn’t expect, forcing me to restructure my plot just to keep up. I spoke with experts on various topics and spent untold hours researching history and different ways to die. 

I wandered the streets of Chicago finding just the right environs for each scene and pulled in some of my own favorite spaces to the point that the city itself becomes a character. Since almost the beginning I’ve had a wonderful, detailed scene set in Oak Park fully envisioned, but with the third installment of the series in the editing stage, I’m still waiting to find the right book to fit it in. In the meantime, friends and people I’ve met can probably recognize bits and pieces of themselves among the pages. The power is epic: cross me, and you’ll end up as a character that I joyfully kill off.

The late nights and sessions of creative cursing at the page paid off when I got to hold the finished product in my hands for the first time, a rush even seasoned authors still feel. Selective amnesia about the process allowed me to start it all over again, as the second book in the series (The Connubial Corpse) will follow in February with the still untitled book number three optimistically scheduled for release by Thanksgiving.

To satisfy the whispers from my publisher, I’ll add that Best Thrillers calls it “one of the year’s best thrillers” and “massively entertaining.” The Prairies Book Review says it’s “Clever, suspenseful, and full of intrigue,” while the Windy City Review opines that “The novel is great fun and will satisfy any fan of snarky contemporary noir.” 

Thomas Thorson has lived in Oak Park for 30 years. He still practices real estate law out of his home. “Heirs Apparent” is available as an ebook on Hoopla through the Oak Park Public Library and at The Looking Glass where a future author appearance and signing is planned when it is safe to do so. To purchase: 708-434-5515, books@thelookingglassbooks.com, 823 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park. 

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