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Unusual Method of Murder Inspires New Thriller

By J. H. Bográn

Austin Camacho’s latest installment in his Hannibal Jones series—THE WRONG KIND—starts out as a missing persons case for the private eye, but he soon finds out that the missing girl has hooked up with a number of bad actors, some connected to the gang MS-13. Before long, one of them turns up dead.

Camacho says the story grew from two different inspirations.

“First, I have started stories with a missing person before and I wanted to see if there was a way I could do it differently,” he says. “While I was fiddling with that idea, I attended a conference at which one of the presenters shared a method of murder I’d never thought of and I decided I just had to use it. I managed to accomplish both those goals in THE WRONG KIND.”

Camacho says the series has become easier to write because he feels the characters are like old friends. What he finds harder to write is a credible plot line that will surprise both Hannibal and the readers. “But that’s part of the fun,” he admits. “Hannibal’s a pretty smart guy so I have to come up with twists that will throw him.”

Unknown to most readers, the series has a theme—it’s about the rising and advancing of one man’s spirit. The character starts the series with a number of flaws and odd quirks. He is a 1940s private eye with many of the attitudes accepted at that time, and over time he evolves to become a more enlightened man. When we first met Hannibal Jones he had some anger issues, but he managed to solve them in his first adventure, The Troubleshooter, and has continued to grow since then. THE WRONG KIND hits closer to home.

Camacho displays his thrillers at South County High School in Lorton, Va.

“I live in a suburban area in Maryland,” Camacho says. “I moved here from a suburban area of Virginia. I’ve always thought of gang violence as an urban phenomenon. When I dug a little deeper, I learned that the worst gang around, MS-13—originally a Salvadoran group—has a death grip on both the county of VA I moved from (Fairfax) and the county of MD I moved to (Prince George’s County). The gang is responsible for a number of murders here, and the members are rarely older than 20 years old. They actually cluster in high schools and even middle schools here.”

During the research process it came as a surprise to find that all the medical examiners in the area where he lives are county employees. The cities don’t have any—so they cover a very large space. “I thought they would be more local,” Camacho says.

Camacho gives a talk called “The Case of the Vanishing Black Private Eyes” at Maryland’s Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Constancia Babcock is a character of importance in this book, and while she was born from a Latin mother with an American father, she prefers to be called “Connie.” The author, from mixed heritage himself, explains how Latin people who want to break out of the stereotypes often try to mainstream by adopting nicknames that sound more American.

“I don’t know if it works,” Camacho says, “but I think it makes them feel that they will be less threatening to the white majority. I find in this area that Latin friends cling to their own culture but still push their children to be more mainstream. It seemed to fit with the story nicely.”

Hannibal Jones is not the only series Camacho writes—the other is Stark and O’Brien. Sometimes plot ideas come and he has to make a choice of where they fit best. “If the idea centers around a murder or crime confined to a city, that’s a Hannibal Jones story. Stark and O’Brien tackle bigger, broader, usually international problems. I’m still looking for the right story to have them cross over—maybe an anti-terrorist caper of some kind.”

Camacho says he writes every morning for a couple of hours at a desk that has been passed down for three generations in his family, but before tackling the actual writing, he sets the stage and prepares himself.

Camacho at Virginia’s Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival with mystery/thriller author Julie Hyzy.

“I do my morning workout just before writing, to get my blood flowing,” he says. “I need a full cup of coffee and some good music mix playing, classic rock, or R&B, or good jazz. I write every day, no matter what.”

Work is non-stop for an author and Camacho is already at work on his next novel. It’s a thriller about a black, female professional assassin who lives in Washington, DC, who is hired to bring down a criminal cartel.

Camacho signs books at the Maryland Craft Show.

“It’s being a fun challenge to make this character likeable as a protagonist.” Camacho says. “She’s dealing with the same policemen that Hannibal Jones is friends with, so there are some familiar characters.”

One thing that Camacho wishes for—and perhaps every author feels the same—is to get more feedback from readers.

“For anyone listening, I am eager to visit with book clubs and reader groups. If you’re not in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia I can still Skype in,” he says. “I find discussions with people who have read my work very rewarding. So please invite me, through Facebook or my website.”


José H. Bográn
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