Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Murdock Tackles Taos by Robert Ray: Character Interview and Excerpt


The scene is the Apache Junction Racquet Club in Taos, New Mexico. Theo Ulster, the tennis pro, has just invited Sleuth Matt Murdock for a drink. These two have been sparring since they met a couple days ago. The interview follows Murdock’s strategy—to get under Theo’s skin. At this point in the story, the reader doesn’t know what to expect from Theo. Here’s the interview:
Murdock trailed Theo to his corner table. It controlled the space in front of a big window that looked out onto the tennis courts. A sign said: Reserved, Theo Ulster, Manager. The table was round and pub dark, the same height as the bar. Two padded stools and one swivel chair with a cushioned, comfy-looking back. Knowing the swivel chair was Theo’s—it gave him a gunfighter’s view of the room, back to the wall—Murdock took the swivel chair.
I say, old boy, Theo said. This is my quarter deck—I am the captain here, so sorry.
Murdock sat there, watching Theo’s eyes narrow, his face getting red. A waitress in a sarong took their orders. Murdock ordered a Pacifico. Theo made a face: Are you sure, old boy?—and then ordered the usual.
What’s the usual? Murdock said.
Pink gin, from my tropical past.
You want your chair back, Ted?
Please. Thank you.
Murdock was grinning at Theo as he surrendered  the chair. Theo’s answering grin was tight, edged with anger that could bloom into fury. The guy was wound tight, right on the edge of crazy. The drinks came. The Pacifico was ice cold. Ignoring the beer glass, Murdock drank from the bottle, bringing yet another annoyed frown from Theo Ulster. As Theo sipped his gin, Murdock could feel him plotting. He sat in the chair like a potentate. Give the guy a megaphone, he’d be the perfect film director.
Speaking of my tropical past, Theo said, I was wondering where you served.
Viet Nam, Murdock said. I was nineteen, fresh out of Ranger School. Saigon had just fallen—you remember the footage on TV—copters leaving citizens behind—and I was part of a team that rescued MIA’s.
Like our own Chuck Norris of film fame? Theo said.
This was no movie, Murdock said. We took fire, we had dead and wounded. What about you, Captain?
Call me Theo, please. And to answer your question, I served in the Hindu Kush—I still dream about it—some time in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland. I was an observer in the Waco debacle, when your agents waged war on those Branch Davidians.
You SAS guys, Murdock said. You do get around.
About that dead girl, Theo said. How far was she from the edge of Flatrock Ridge?
Maybe a mile, Murdock said. When we found her, she was lying in a field of rocks and flowers. It was like she was trying to get safe, huddled up, warding off danger by hugging her knees.
And the alleged and unacknowledged archers?
Up the trail, maybe fifty yards.
That’s quite a distance for accurate pistol shooting.
Who said anything about pistol shooting? Murdock said.
You did, old boy. When you were holding forth last night at Drusilla’s.
Nope, Murdock said.
I assure you, Theo said. Everyone heard it.
Not from me, Murdock said.
Then how else would I know? Theo said.
Maybe you got the cops wired, Ted.
My dear fellow, I distinctly remember hearing you say that you fired two shots. It was your service weapon, correct?
Theo leaned close, locked eyes with Murdock. His Adam’s apple bobbled up and down. He drained his pink gin and signaled the waitress for a refill. Across the room, Murdock saw Sammy Savage, who was looming over Elise Wellborn, who had hold of Sammy’s white bandana. Their faces—hers tanned, his sunburned—were close enough for a kiss and she was giving him an earful about something. Sammy straightened up, she released her hold on the bandana, and he scanned the room, pausing when he came to the table of female tennis players. Then he locked eyes with Murdock, nodded, and headed for Theo’s table.
Here comes Savage, Murdock said.
An old friend of yours, I understand.
Old friend from jungle days, Murdock said.

Murdock Tackles Taos

by Robert Ray

on Tour July - August 2013

Book Details:

Genre:  Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 331
ISBN: 978-1-60381-925-1 // 978-1-60381-926-8
Purchase Links:


A dead girl with an arrow sticking out of her back sends Matt Murdock and Helene Steinbeck on a killer-hunt that takes them to Angel Mountain where a cold-blooded steely-eyed killer has hypnotized some rich people into funding a naughty habit involving pretty girls, young women in great shape from the worlds of Art and Professional Sport. The odds are fifty to one that they won't get out of this mess alive.

She had the day off and she was lonely in Taos so she took her laptop and her sketchpad and sat in the shade at the Hard Wire Café. She was sketching a guy for money because she was broke.

He was handsome, with a great tan and a gorgeous smile. When he left her with a twenty she felt even lonelier. She bought a coffee, sweet iced latte, and hung out—was he gone forever or what?

An hour passed, then two. She did another sketch—ten bucks, thank you—and then the handsome guy was back.

“Come to a party,” he said. “Artists and writers, Colony People. Our kind, okay?”

The guy drove a silver Humvee.

She kicked off her sandals and settled into the comfy seat smiling. The guy had this really great profile.The Humvee climbed up, past the Pueblo, and crossed through a gate into Never-Never Land. Roofs, aspen trees turning, a lawn so green it came from England.

The first person she met gave her a drag. The smoke invaded her brain, curled like a cat. The people were beautiful, some her age, some younger. The food was out of this world.

Smoked meat, soft and succulent. “Have another bite, hon?” What is this meat, anyway?

There was wine, beer, tequila shooters, Scotch whiskey so smooth it raised your hopes for a better world. A world for starving artists like herself.

She danced around the campfire, barefoot. Her feet were tough from pounding New York streets.

A pretty girl, Tammy with a Texas accent and a bouncy blonde ponytail, whipped off her blouse and kept dancing— torchlight on bare tits, sell that sketch, make a killing.

Another girl, another blouse, and another. Blouses tossed like leaves in the wind, until she was the only one left, the only girl not on display. So she said, “What the hell?” and they clapped their hands, chanting, as she flung her blouse away and then....



Robert J. Ray is a writer/ teacher with six Matt Murdock Mysteries, three volumes of The Weekend Novelist writing series, a tennis story, a thriller about diamonds, a small business textbook that has gone through five editions, and short pieces for magazines. He spent a dozen years teaching college students how to write better. He spent five years teaching tennis, using techniques like Inner Game.

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Tour Participants


CMash said...

Love the concept of a character interview!! Great post. Thank you.

Jack said...

I've read this novel. Ray brings a new slant to the mystery. Good writing, good story, good characters.