Author Robert Ray is a pretty cool guy. Born in Texas in 1935, which makes him 86 years old, he describes himself as “author, teacher, dangerous thinker”. In university he majored in languages, learning Russian, Chinese and Hindustani! He bagged a PhD and has spent his professional life teaching writing at the college level.
Penguin published Ray’s first books in the Murdock series from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. I remember their witty titles: Bloody Murdock, Dial M for Murdock, Merry Christmas Murdock and Murdock Cracks Ice. Then there’s a 20 year gap before the next two books in the series: Murdock Tackles Taos (2012) and Murdock Rocks Sedona (2015). Also a change of venue from California to New Mexico and a change in publishers to Camel Press Publishing a mid-list publisher of genre fiction located in Washington State.
So what happened? A familiar and unhappy scenario for many writers. They publish a series of books then the publisher drops them because (a) their editor and in-house champion left the company or (b) the books didn’t sell quite enough. Quality doesn’t count, not even Hammett nominations, only biz revenues. Authors’ careers increasingly resemble the business curves of commodities.
He returned to his teaching roots and with co-author, Bret Norris, created The Weekend Novelist, a step-by-step manual for wannabe authors busy with their day jobs. It proved to be such a huge success that Ray went on to write two more follow-ups: The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery with his friend, Jack Remick as well as The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel. Ray believes that the books have taught more than 10,000 people how to write!
Ray also wrote a standalone thriller, The Hitman Cometh as well as several business texts and a book on tennis.
Today, with the help of Jack Remick, he maintains a vibrant blog on his website. Every Tuesday and Friday they write together at Louisa’s Bakery and Cafe in Seattle, a city where he and his wife live with three cats…so far.
I like this guy!!
Re-reading the opening chapters of Murdock for Hire, I’m struck by Ray’s spare, journalistic prose, which zips you through the pages. The subject matter is pure “Wolf of Wall Street” stuff. Hapless businessman Eddie Hennessey tries the kinky sex and drugs of an exclusive hookers’ club and ends up unpleasantly dead. Murdock, who more than a little resembles Travis McGee (he loves boats and hot women), is asked to investigate. It’s an enjoyable pulp read, the same but different.
BOTTOM LINE: My copy of Murdock for Hire is paperback, not first edition. Prices on Abe Books, Amazon and Biblio range from $2 to $6. Thierry value: $11.30US*
DECISION: Donate to Little Library
*Thierry value = most outrageous price you can humanly get away with. Named in honor of Mr. Brainwash who sold old used T-shirts for $500+. (See Banksy’s documentary, Exit through the Gift Shop.)