In crime on June 4, 2012 at 6:08 am

Author Ronald James was born in Oakland, California, during the Great Depression. He didn’t have lot of toys, but didn’t know any better.His father and mother loved the movies. The local theaters were cheap, about 15¢ for adults and 10¢ for him. He liked the musicals, and cops and robbers best. These films were his training ground for future stories. He was treated to Humphrey Bogart’s breakout role of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon as a child.

While watching films in dark palaces of the Golden Age of movies was entertaining, maturity demanded: get a job. He went to the University of California, Berkeley and became an architect. When the world of architecture changed from fun to drudgery, he still practiced architecture, but looked around for something that would be exciting again. He didn’t know if he found creative writing or it found him, but his first three-page story had a detective running aimlessly about in an adventurous night.

Years passed. While working in San Francisco he met San Francisco homicide detectives and discovered they were no different than him—only their job description changed. He began expanding that first story. He attended three “Mystery Writers Conferences at Book Passage,” Corte Madera, California. He added color and gave the characters depth and a voice. For his protagonist, his mind returned to his youth and that old reliable character, Sam Spade. He loved Spade’s poise—always sure, rarely tricked, but not perfect. He could clearly see Spade and his cockiness, but he consider his detective soft-boiled—he can laugh, has feelings and is built short and stocky—not the Hollywood image of a gumshoe, who were always stoic, and never smiled. As an added treat for the reader, he plays with references to the Sam Spade movie and novel, and purposely lets other characters occasionally mix up Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in his books.

In his own words he explains how he writes:

I’m a middle of the road writer, neither précised nor rigid. No more writing by the seat of my pants. But, I will not tolerate so-structured chapters that will not allow any deviations. I get an idea, and start forming a story within my mind. I develop an outline, chapter by chapter and then make 5×3 character cards for each essential person in my story, but I leave room for another character to reshape the twists and turns that are expected, and perhaps add a few more chapters when a character is introduced, and their actions might prod me to extend their role. Sometimes I write the first and the last chapter’s drafts before working out the guts of the story. This creates richness to the story, and the last chapter will change as the stories characters demand. I love it. It’s like when I practiced architecture; I couldn’t wait to get to work, and I watch my architectural lines gradually become a real edifices, for people to live, work, and enjoy. I guess it stems from my design training, the client knows what he wants, but if you can take the box, and create vistas of space and light that will tickle the user, you’ve satisfied the owner, their family, and buildings’ workers.

Even though you know who did most of the mayhem in my detective novels, it’s fun to see how my detective, Sammy Shovel, uncovers ominous human actions.

Ronald James has two more Sammy Shovel novels completed and they will be released in the next few years. If you like his introductory character, Sammy Shovel, and his style of writing, keep watching for all his books. He has an interesting novel, about two young men who wrote a musical, set in 1974, tittled The Two Jacks.

Here is a shot book summary to introduce you to Sammy Shovel.

This short story introduces my detective protagonist, Sammy Shovel. He’s short and built like a rain barrel, similar to the English actor, Bob Hoskins. Street people dress better than he does. Five years ago, bullets that were meant for Sammy, snuffed out his senior partner, Harry Hart. Since that fateful night, Sammy’s had a constant chip on his shoulder. He will do anything to make a buck—even resort to dreaded repos.

Sammy is drinking up a storm at one of Harry’s old spots when he sees an opportunity to make a quick buck. The time is December, when Christmas music blares and ornate decorations keep reminding Shovel he’s alone in a city that doesn’t care.  This sacred season brings back memories of a happier childhood, and that irks Sammy even more. He has no one. Both his gentle mother and his forgiving father passed away about the same time Harry ate lead. Sammy has no siblings and has never married, because of shyness around the opposite sex. He knows why suicides increase from Thanksgiving to the New Year; the temptation lingers constantly within his own shallow life.

The adventure starts with two hit men, Guido and Bennie, waiting outside of a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco for old man Crowder, their target for tonight’s shoot-to-kill fun.

While Sammy is kibitzing with the bartender, Pete, at Scotts, in Oakland’s Jack London Square, in rush Guido and Bennie. The two have mixed up the name of the restaurant where the hit is to take place with a similar-sounding restaurant across the bay. However, Sammy surmises they’re there for instructions for a robbery. When he gives up his dinner to follow the two creeps for a potential quick reward by a grateful owner, he is instead treated to an adventurous night, filled with intrigue, murders, and resulting mayhem.

In each subsequent detective book, Sammy’s shoulder chip gets whittled away, and he embraces a new life style – the reason? A woman of course!

Ronald James can be found on:

and his

Tomorrow, Ronald James post, Turning A Child Into Evil. Don't miss it!

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