By J. H. Bográn
In DRESSED TO KILL, Victor Espinoza, a short, youthful LAPD patrol officer, is sent undercover as a cross-dresser to catch a serial killer. His ambition to become a detective gets snarled when, ignoring his captain’s orders, he goes it alone. He establishes himself at the Velvet Glove, a Hollywood bar that caters to transvestites. The secret nature of his assignment strains his relationship with his girlfriend, Jannine—who wants to marry and start a family—but also puts him hot on the trail of the killer. Victor gets a little too close and now is targeted as the next victim.
THE BIG THRILL recently caught up with Alvarez to ask some questions about his intriguing new thriller.
Let’s tackle the origins of the story first, shall we?
Let me give you a few words of background. Here in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles LAPD sent an undercover police officer into a high school to glean information about a drug operation rooted there. He was a very youthful looking man who passed as a student. That news piece was followed by an experience my wife and I had in Chicago.
My brothers and sisters (I have eight of them) and their spouses were attending the wedding of my nephew and we all stayed at a major hotel near O’Hare Airport. We noticed that there were a significant number of very big women also staying there. Turns out the Cross-dressers of America were holding their annual convention there. My younger brother whose fuse is very short got into an argument with a couple cross-dressers at the bar.
Several years later I read of the murder of a cross-dresser here in the Valley and everything clicked. The story almost wrote itself. I just added in the bar scene for dramatic binding of the novel’s topic.
How would you categorize DRESSED TO KILL?
The best characterization of DRESSED TO KILL is it is a Mystery/Thriller with a touch of comedy. The comedy is situational rather than one-liners.
Please tell us about the main character.
I had occasion to meet the famous jockey Victor Espinoza. (He rode California Chrome in the Derby.) Victor is short, youthful looking, and well put together. Both the real Victor and my fictional Victor are ambitious, and have intense focus. The main character comes from a traditional catholic upbringing, has a younger brother, and is frowned upon by his family because he has been going with Jannine for five years and no signs of marriage.
Was making the main character a Latino intentional?
Definitely yes because when I set out to write DRESSED TO KILL I realized there would probably be more than one book involving this cop. Since the second book, The Colors of Murder is about Victor going undercover in the gang infested East Los Angeles area of Boyle Heights then of necessity he would have to be first generation Mexican American.
Is there a deeper layer within the story?
Since you asked I would like to add that the arc of the story centers on the myth of the Latino Man: macho at all cost. Victor, unlike his father, is only mildly homophobic. His ambition trumps his aversion to anything LGBT. In the story he gets to know more about a gay cross-dresser which moves him toward tolerance and sensitivity. Without giving away the ending his growth influences his fellow cops as well.
Without giving away the ending, what can you share about the antagonist?
The actual murderer of the two cross-dressers in the story is a man driven toward vengeance. He is neither gay nor a transgender person. He wants a pound of flesh for the wounds he suffered early in his life and in a distorted way has targeted cross-dressers who are olive skinned, black hair, short and youthful looking. Victor is a carbon copy of the two previous victims.
How much influence did your previous work on nonfiction help with the writing of DRESSED TO KILL?
Nonfiction like fiction requires research and more research. They both demand commitment and discipline. Having gone through the mechanics of rewriting, editing, and proof-reading, I knew what awaited me so it helped me finish DRESSED TO KILL.
What kind of promotion are you doing for this title, any appearances, book tour?
I have just begun an elaborate plan that has been approved by the publisher. A recent book signing launched by my volunteer publicist brought over seventy attendees. The next phase will be press releases to local newspapers. I have hired a consultant to assist in making my URL for Google more reactive to key search phrases. I am putting together a book tour of California book stores as a prelude. If I get traction I’ll expand to other areas. Of course I am doing the usual waltz with Facebook, Twitter, etc.
As per your website, you worked in two branches of the military, Navy and Army, isn’t that unusual?
Yes and no. Most folks don’t know that the Army maintained its own fleet of ships. I served as radioman aboard an Army fleet supply ship, the FS229. I also served on the Henry H. Blood, a cargo ship operating in the South Pacific. While in the Navy I attended Radar School in Bainbridge Maryland.
What are you currently working on?
Well now we are back to our Latino connections. I am finishing up a novella titled, The Immigrant. This is a story of a fourteen year old boy who gets separated from his parents in an ICE round-up. His struggles with living on the street, dealing with bigots, and fighting with sexual predators while searching for a connection with his parents. The release is set for March 2015. I am also about halfway finished with a first draft of The Colors of Murder. This is a follow-up to DRESSED TO KILL.
Dressed to Kill is Charles Alverez’s first novel. He has completed four screenplays and is an active member of Alameda Writers and L.A. Writers Group. While professor at Pierce College he co-wrote several books published by McGraw Hill and Science Research Associates. He is married to Patricia Ann Hurley and they have four children, two boys and two girls.
To learn more about Charles, please visit his website.