I have quite an amusing guest post from author Joan Livingston about some characters in her latest book Checking The Traps.
Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.
Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.
The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.
As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.
Meet the Old Farts
I call them the Old Farts. Actually, that’s the name Isabel Long, the protagonist of my mystery series, gave them — with a capital O and a capital F. They are six gossipy old men hanging out early mornings at the local general store who seem to know everybody’s business from miles around. So, Isabel finds the Old Farts useful when she’s taken on a case.
Isabel Long, a journalist turned amateur P.I., solves cold cases in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where she lives. In Checking the Traps, her third, a man hires her to find out how his brother died. Did he really jump from a bridge known for suicides? Or, as the man suspects, was he pushed?
Actually, Isabel takes it a step further and gives the men nicknames: the Fattest Old Fart, Serious Old Fart, Bald Old Fart, Silent Old Fart, Skinniest Old Fart, and the Old Fart with Glasses. I bet you can guess how she came up with those names. The men, of course, don’t know about the nicknames. It’s likely the only thing they don’t. (Once in a while, there are Visiting Old Farts, but they aren’t regulars.)
It surprising the reach the Old Farts have in those hilltowns, so Isabel checks in with them on a regular basis. Their conversation is lively, well except for the Silent Old Fart. The men also like to tease Isabel about her personal life. She gladly gives it back to them.
But they do give useful tips or at least some history because unlike Isabel, they are all natives of Conwell. They’ve known each other forever. And they have no better way to start the day than to drink coffee, eat a donut, and shoot the you-know-what.
Here’s a scene from Checking the Traps. By the way, Isabel has her arm in a sling due to a broken collarbone, a souvenir from her last case.
“Sit down right next to me.” The Fattest Old Fart slides over and pats the empty space beside his left side. “How’s your busted wing doing?”
“Better. I’m about ready to get back into action again.”
The Fattest Old Fart nods to the Serious Old Fart, and we go through our usual routine of him serving me a cup of coffee and that silly joke of his about the espresso machine being broke, which still makes me laugh not because of its originality but because of its longevity.
“Here you go, Isabel. Just the way you like it,” the Serious Old Fart says as he hands me the Styrofoam cup.
“That bad, eh? When are they really gonna get that machine fixed?”
I glance around at the group of six regulars. You’ve met two of them. Also in attendance are the Bald Old Fart, the Old Fart with Glasses, the Skinniest Old Fart, and the Silent Old Fart.
“Does that mean you have another case already?” the Bald Old Fart asks.
“I might, but I came here to do some research first.”
Everybody has a grin, even the Serious Old Fart.
“Please tell all,” he says.
I grimace as I take a sip of coffee to build up the suspense.
“What can you tell me about Cary Moore?”
The grins fade fast.
“Poor guy,” the Old Fart with Glasses says.
“Such a tragedy,” the Bald Old Fart says.
The Silent Old Fart nods in long, slow arcs.
“More please, gentlemen,” I say.
The Old Fart with Glasses clears his throat.
“You’re familiar with his brothers, of course. Let’s say Cary was the nicest of the lot, and the oldest if I recall. He dated one of my daughters in high school for a while. I wasn’t thrilled about it given his family.”
“What about his family?”
“Let’s just say if you’ve gotten to know the Beaumont brothers, their parents weren’t much better,” the Old Fart with Glasses continues. “They may have not been in the, uh, same line of business, but they’d never be considered, uh, model parents. You all remember Martha and Frenchie?”
I hear a chorus of grunts.
The Skinniest Old Fart speaks up. “The father died of cirrhosis of the liver, a painful way to kick. It was cancer for Martha. Those boys grew up kinda feral.”
“Sure did,” the Old Fart with Glasses said. “Cary was married to this girl in Penfield. They were going to have a kid. At least, she said it was his.”
“You’re not so sure?” I ask.
The Old Fart with Glasses blushes.
“That was the story going around in those days. But I could be wrong.”
Ha, this is a first: an Old Fart admitting he could be wrong.
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.
An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.
After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long mystery series.