A US Army officer, Randy Rawls traveled the world before retiring to south Florida, the setting for his Beth Bowman PI series (Midnight Ink). BEST DEFENSE is his latest release:
John Hammonds is a defense lawyer who has everything. When his five-year-old daughter is kidnapped, the police vow to do whatever is necessary to recover her. Hammonds has other ideas. He demands they step aside and allow Beth Bowman, local Private Investigator, to take the lead. Furthermore, the police must assist her or stay out of her way, whichever she decides. Beth and a bevy of friends know they must move fast and discreetly before the worst can happen.
“…a satisfying, lighthearted adventure.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“BEST DEFENSE is a quick read with a returning cast of quirky characters and a well-devised plot.”—FRESH FICTION
Child kidnapping and light-hearted are rarely used in the same sentence, but BEST DEFENSE includes both. Let’s start with a two-part question.
What led you to the kidnapping theme?
I want my stories to be topical and as fresh as today’s headlines. Unfortunately, the headlines today feature far too many kidnappings—and those kidnappings too often turn out badly. I wanted to write a story that would challenge me and challenge my readers, something in which the murder of two human beings takes a back seat to the drama of the rest of the tale. The kidnapping of a five-year-old girl is that story. I hope readers get as caught up in the search for Ashley as I did.
How did you decide on the light tone?
I didn’t “decide” on it. It’s just my way of writing. Life can be so dark and the books we read too often only reflect that darkness. In real life, there is always a moment of lightness, no matter how gray the sky. My goal is to solicit a smile from a reader even as they absorb the evils of society. Perhaps, Beth’s romance or Dot’s shenanigans will offset a bad moment in someone’s life. A smile is a beautiful expression. I’m always hoping for one.
BEST DEFENSE is the second book in your Miami-based private investigator series. I found your use of the “homeless associates” more interwoven into the story than the more typical informant. Where did you come up with the idea?
The idea of writing a story with the homeless as heroes began several years ago when book five of the Ace Edwards series (JASMINE’S FATE) was published. In that story, a homeless man holds a key to the mystery. I played him for laughs even as Ace Edwards tracked him down. During a radio interview, the Hostess, in a very nice way, chided me for my treatment of this unfortunate man. That stayed with me, and I began to pay more attention to the “homeless” here in South Florida.
While I believe that many of them are little more than con artists, there are others with horrific stories. As I wrote my way into HOT ROCKS, the first in the Beth Bowman series, I decided I wanted to “give the homeless a break.” The best way I could do that was make them Beth’s allies and, at the same time, tell a couple of their stories. It worked so well in book 1 that I continued it into book 2, and they will stay on in books 3, 4, etc. Of course, my homeless and their stories are fiction, but isn’t fiction a reflection of fact?
Beth Bowman is a second PI series for you (Ace Edwards is the first for those keeping score). What is it about this sub-genre that appeals to you?
You missed one. I also have a thriller series featuring Tom Jeffries, a South Florida PI.
I like the PI as protagonist because his or her actions seem more real to me. A policeman or other law enforcement agent is encumbered with enough laws, rules, and regulations to cower the most brave at heart. Whenever I read a police procedural, I flinch, knowing he or she could never do “that.”
I have a problem with Citizen Joe or Citizen Jane delving into murder and other mayhem to solve a case. Heck, it’s tough enough to get the average citizen to dial 9-1-1 when it’s needed. And little old ladies taking on ruthless street thugs . . .
But the PI is by definition an investigator trained in solving mysteries. True, in real life those mysteries might only be who is sleeping with whom, but training is required. And that’s the way most of my stories begin, the PI handling a case well within a PI’s purview. But then, things happen, and the PI is embroiled in a worse case.
If I decide to have Beth grab a bad guy off the street and coerce him into talking, she is not going to be called on the carpet by her supervisor for violating some rule. Said bad guy cannot cry to the police. If she bypasses some thug’s alarm system to search his house, who is the thug going to report her to? If she . . . the list goes on and on. The PI is the perfect “investigator” for me.
What took you from Texas to Florida?
Three words: retirement, warm weather. I spent twenty-plus years in the Army bouncing from place to place, seemingly freezing my butt off most of the time. As I saw retirement on the horizon, I knew I had to get to some place where you never see the sign, “Caution. Bridge Freezes Before Road.” I did—South Florida, the land of warm weather all year round, Randy’s Paradise.
My heart remains in Texas but my body is warm in Florida.
Now that you retired, what else are you involved with in addition to writing?
Too much, or so it seems some times. I am active in the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, serving on the board and having run our writers conference, SleuthFest, several times. I am active in my community, an over-fifty-five development, holding down several volunteer positions. I make as many public appearances as I can arrange to promote and teach. And of course, my lovely lady, Ronnie, takes up a lot of my time.
Is the cowboy hat on your website a tribute to Ace Edwards or did Texas get under your skin?
As I said above, my heart remains in Texas. However, skin cancer is a very real threat to me—too much time in the sun for too many years. I must wear a hat that covers not only my head, but my ears as well. I decided, why not wear a hat I like—a western hat? I chose the gambler’s crown because any other makes me feel even shorter than I am. So, wherever I go, I wear my western hat. And, as My Honey is quick to point out, every time I make a trip back to Texas I end up with one or more new ones.
Thus, the answer to your question is twofold: I need to wear a hat, and yes, Texas is under my skin.
What should readers expect from you next? Another Beth Bowman book or something new?
Beth Bowman number 3 is in the works, and I plan to finish it in the next few months. In addition, I am shopping book 2 in my Tom Jeffries thriller series, a story I call THE RUNAWAY. And, I’m converting my Ace Edwards series to ebooks. There are also some short stories pinging away at the back of my head that need to be written.
Said this quickly, it seems like a lot, doesn’t it?
Major thanks for the opportunity to interview with International Thriller Writers.
For more information on Randy and all of his work, check out his website.