Today Wednesday Writers Welcomes Christian Mystery writer James R. Callan. James will be telling us the story behind the story of his murder mystery Over My Dead Body, the second book in James’ A Father Frank Mystery series. According to reviews, James has a gift for characterization. I don’t know about you, but I’m already intrigued by his mystery protagonist, Father Frank. I think you’ll enjoy the Story Behind the Story.
Some years ago, the Keystone decided they would run their pipeline through our property. We argued with them, but as they had eminent domain on their side, our fight was useless. They bulldozed down hundred-foot tall pines and sixty year-old oak trees. In all, they clear cut a strip one hundred and fifty feet wide and about a third of a mile long.
Once it was done, we put our anger aside and tried to enjoy the process. But in the back of my mind, I knew I would use this in some fashion in a book.
Since I write murder mysteries, and as far as I knew there were no murders associated with the Keystone, I did not follow that closely. Also, I did not want to paint the company in a bad light. So, I used the power of eminent domain as a catalyst for a Father Frank Mystery.
The end result was Over My Dead Body. In it, Syd Cranzler is fighting a large corporation that is taking his land by eminent domain for a shopping center. The day after a heated discussion in which Syd promises to file with the courts to stop the project, he is found dead from an overdose of his heart medication. The police rule it suicide. Case closed.
But Father Frank, Syd’s minister, doesn’t believe Syd would commit suicide. Neither does Georgia, another member of the parish. Together, they begin to search for information that might induce the police to reopen the case. This threatens the budding romance between Georgia and the lead detective. But as Father Frank and Georgia continue to probe, they come under attack and when Father Frank is almost killed, the police reluctantly reopen the case.
The reading of the will raises more questions, and motives. As the police look more closely, other suspects come to light. Even Father Frank becomes a suspect when his church is mentioned in the will.
In the end, it is Father Frank, with help from Georgia, who must solve the case.
So, Keystone slashed across our property. The pipeline is buried and fortunately, it isn’t close to our house. But we mourn the loss of so many fine, old trees.
In the light of “every cloud has a silver lining,” a book came out of it. Over My Dead Body doesn’t follow the Keystone Pipeline closely. But our brush with eminent domain did form the genesis for a book that has been very well received.
I miss the trees. They are gone. But the book lives on.
James R. Callan
Over My Dead Body. A Father Frank Mystery
Father Frank knew Bud Wilcox, had met him on several occasions. He didn’t go to Prince of Peace. Father Frank thought for a moment. First Baptist, as I remember. The priest crossed the blazing hot asphalt parking lot and entered City Hall, spoke to the secretary and was ushered into Bud’s office.
Larger than Mike’s, it was also much neater. The yellow pad of paper, telephone, and computer monitor and keyboard almost looked lonesome on the large oak desk. A matching credenza behind Bud’s high-backed leather chair held a neat stack of paper and a few colored folders with bold labels on them: water plant, road works, city auditorium, and merchants’ association. The largest folder was labeled “Grant Applications.”
“What can I do for you, Father?” It sounded like a rote response with no commitment.
“I understand you were with Syd Cranzler shortly before he died.”
Bud leaned back in his chair, relaxed. “I heard about his death. But I didn’t hear when he died. So, I don’t know about the timing. But yes, I did talk with him Monday afternoon. Duke Heinz and I were trying to convince him to settle with Lockey and not get into court over this.”
“How did the meeting go?”
“Not well. Syd was being bullheaded, wouldn’t really listen to what Duke had to say.”
“Can you remember what Syd said? Exactly?”
Bud sat forward, muscles tense, attention sharpened. “Where are you going with this?”
“Frankly, Bud, I have a hard time seeing Syd commit suicide. I’m trying to get a picture of what happened shortly before his death.” He paused only a moment. “What did Syd say, or do? How did he act?”
Bud looked down at his desk for several seconds, then refocused on Father Frank. “He said he had no intention of selling, would fight Lockey all the way.” He picked up a pencil and toyed with it.
Bud looked straight into the priest’s eyes. “He said Lockey would get the property over his dead body.”
Father Frank’s eyes opened wider. “Over his dead body? He said that?”
“And how did Mr. Heinz respond to that?”
Bud shook his head. “He said it would hardly make a bump in the parking lot, or something close to that.”
Over My Dead Body is available at: Amazon
About the Author
James R. Callan had a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being named in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans. He left the technology field to pursue his real love, writing. He has had four non-fiction books published, but his passion is mystery and suspense novels. His eleventh book is scheduled to be published in 2016.
Twitter: @jamesrcallan FB: James Callan