By George Ebey
Robert J. Randisi takes us into the world of a private detective in his latest outing, THE HEADSTONE DETECTIVE AGENCY.
John Headston is a private detective who, early in his career, was very successful, running a 12-man operation called the Headstone Detective Agency, mainly because the guy who painted the name on the door added the “e” at the end without realizing it was wrong. As the book opens, however, Headston is now 50, and the agency is down to just him. In his past he had run-ins with not only the law, but also the New York State agency that had licensed him. As a result he spent some time in jail and had his license revoked. Now he has it back, and he’s trying to get started again. His first case is a missing persons case, a wealthy woman whose husband just seems to have vanished from his Wall Street stockbroker job. Headston finds the man, who is now living under very odd circumstances, but the missing persons case quickly turns to murder. Aided by a tattooed young lady who decides she should work for him, Headston decides to work on the murder case while attempting to avoid running afoul of the law and having his license revoked again—possibly for good this time.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Randisi to learn more about this story and his insights into suspense fiction.
What first drew you to writing mysteries?
Oh, we’re going back to my childhood, when I was reading the Hardy Boys. But what actually turned me into a writer was the movie Harper. I give Paul Newman and Ross Macdonald a lot of the credit.
Tell us about your main character, John Headston. What has his journey been like up until now?
John Headston did not spring into life whole cloth, the way a lot of my characters have. His mysterious past was a mystery even to me, and will come out bit-bit-bit in subsequent books. More will come out in the next book, Headstone’s Folly.
What type of research did you do to prepare for this book?
Well, a lot of research was not really necessary, since I was dealing with places and things I knew. But since I left New York 28 years ago, I did have to familiarize myself with today’s Manhattan.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I hope they’ll realize that I am back in the genre I love, the private eye genre. And I hope they’ll stay interested in Headston’s past and future.
What elements do you feel are essential for a good suspense story?
Even though a good suspense story needs an interesting, involved plot, I still think the most important aspect—especially if it’s a series—is the main character. Whether it’s a cop, a private eye, or an everyman or everywoman, the character has got to engage the reader. A good story can’t carry a weak character, but a good character can carry a weak story.
Robert J. Randisi is the author of the “Miles Jacoby,” “Nick Delvecchio,” “Gil & Claire Hunt,” “Dennis McQueen,” “Joe Keough,” and “The Rat Pack,” mystery series. He is the editor of over 30 anthologies. All told he is the author of over 600 novels.
Randisi is the founder of the Private Eye Writers of America, the creator of the Shamus Award, the co-founder of Mystery Scene Magazine.