Who is The Horoscope Writer? It’s not Bobby Frindley. He’s an ex-Olympic athlete who has fast-talked his way into an entry-level position at a dying newspaper. He’s supposed to be writing horoscopes, but he’s been receiving them instead, anonymous messages, appearing in his inbox from his very first day on the job. They predict infidelities, personal tragedies, even murder. Bobby shrugs off the unsettling predictions. That is, until the next day when they appear to be coming true.
Working with a skeptical co-worker, Bobby investigates the horoscope writer’s true identity. Maybe it’s Terry Abbatista, living high atop the hill over-looking La Jolla. Terry is a fan of elaborate games, and an obsessive collector of the works of astronomer Johannes Kepler. Maybe it’s Jack Madrigal, a recently paroled ex-con. Madrigal has a history of high-profile crimes against the city. It could even be Leslie Consorte, the grizzled police detective assigned to the case. He’s outspoken, aggressive, and spectacularly careless in his investigation.
Each day new horoscopes arrive, drawing Bobby closer to discovering the truth. That is until the day the predictions begin to relate directly to his own life. Has he attracted the attention of a master criminal? Or is it possible that, like any good horoscope, it’s all in his imagination?
Ash Bishop recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, THE HOROSCOPE WRITER.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
My dad was a university professor who specialized in helping teachers with the skills to make students strong early readers. As such, I was a willing and unwilling guinea pig/research assistant, inundated with lots of books from the very start. I was reading gruesome mystery novels from a very early age and spent a lot of days on the couch curled up with Robert B. Parker, Gregory McDonald and John D. MacDonald novels. It was likely Ed McBain’s high-concept serial killer stories that planted the seed for this novel many, many years ago.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
An excellent question! I think we’re in the middle of a period of great social change and as part of that, I see a lot of people struggling with determining fact from fiction online. I thought the feeling of instability and uncertainty would be a good basis for a murder mystery.
I am also not a great plotter so I count on my characters to generate their own kinetic energy as they fight for what they want and overcome obstacles (and often one another). If I start a book and the energy of the characters drives me forward, then I know I’m on to something that I want to stick with.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
The protagonist’s background was conceived more to fit the general theme which is about dramatic social change and the ways in which somethings persist in our culture and other things are abandoned. The main character is an ex-Olympiad, aging out of athletics and he’s keenly aware of how windows of opportunity can quickly shut. This is further emphasized by the fact he’s working for a newspaper which itself is trying to survive the changing times. His main help is a police detective, grizzled from years on the job, but seeing himself slowly replaced by an ever expanding forensics department. Both leads are white males, peripherally aware of their once lofty place in the American zeitgeist being slowly phased out.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I am a multi-genre writer and my debut novel was a humorous science fiction novel called Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc. It recently won the Audie for best Science Fiction Audiobook of 2023 and so my publisher is excited for me to focus on a sequel to that. I’m about 85% finished.
Ash is a lifetime reader who loves all genres, especially science fiction, mystery, and fantasy. He has been a high school English teacher, worked in the video game industry, and in educational app development. He even used to fetch coffee for Quentin Tarantino during the production of the film Jackie Brown. He currently works for a veteran assistance program, but spends his best days at home in Southern California with his wonderful wife and two wonderful children. Many years ago, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.