M.M. Gornell is high on the list, and simply put, it's because she's a good writer. No other writer has made me feel that I've stepped into someone else's world; as if I had gotten out of my car and walked into their home right in the middle of their life.
Gornell is known for her standalone novels, each with different characters facing different problems, but all of their stories taking place along the historic Route 66. Counsel of Ravens is the first time the author has revisited a setting and characters, in this case, those from Reticence of Ravens. I have to say I enjoyed the familiar faces and locations, and Madeline agreed to talk to me about her books.
Even knowing with certainty that you don't write a series, I have to ask if this was your first sequel, because the characters left such an impression on me I was certain I'd known them longer than one book!
Counsel of Ravens is my first sequel—a scary proposition for me. Writing this one little sequel has been so challenging. I’m in awe of so many of my fellow mystery authors (you being one of them) that have already written series—with many characters I just love (like Frankie, the Wilder Women, & Evan.) And I’m taking as a high-compliment that you “know” my characters. Makes me feel wonderful to know Hugh and the gang have became real for you!
What made you choose to spend more time with Hugh and the rest of these characters and with this particular location along Route 66?
I've lied (to you and others!) in the past saying a current book will be part of a yet to be written series or trilogy, then changed my literary mind. Truth probably is, I actually knew from the beginning that I just wanted to drop-in, then drop-out of each standalone set of characters from the start. BUT, mystery writers often write series. And my favorite mysteries, written by P.D. James, are Adam Dagliesh tales. So, the short answer is, I thought I should at least try a sequel, and Hugh seemed to be calling me. It was, I think, a back and forth kind of thing. When I started, it seemed a good thing, but before I finished, I cursed (mildly, but often) my decision.
In the process, I came to realize I really do like leaving literary lose ends. I must admit, though, at times it was fun deciding which "what if" possibilities to pursue for Hugh. BUT, it was very difficult to wrap up many of Hugh's challenges, possibilities, eventualities...not sure what exactly to call them.
And as far as location goes—the Mojave Desert and Route 66—for me, are still such a rich environment for tales still to be told. Here’s the preface to Counsel of Ravens (I’m very fond of prefaces to set the scene and mood.) Hopefully it explains a little of how I’m feeling about my current environment…
Topography, climate, scenery. When you think about all the different environments Route 66 touches as it forges westward from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean—the mind boggles. From Chicago’s sophisticated big city hubbub and bejeweled lakefront, to the movie-hub ambiance and sun soaked ocean beaches of Los Angeles and environs—what a ride! Literally and culturally.
And amongst all those locations—each offering myriad possibilities for intrigue, murder, and mayhem—this author’s mind remains captivated by California’s Mojave Desert. Stark, heat-baked, wind battered, and in-your-face—yet oddly comforting and sheltering. How can that be?
Hubert James Champion III continues to wonder…
Will you be writing additional Hubert James Champion III novels? And will you be writing sequels to any of your other Route 66 books? And are there additional Route 66 Mysteries with new characters and locations coming?
I'm feeling pretty sure at this point, I'm a stand-alone kind of writer, and don’t have any plans to write another sequel—but I’m old enough to know saying “never” is fool hardy, indeed! And I do have a couple raven’s titles running around in my mind.
Route 66 does, though, remain the “juice” for my imagination, and my next novel again takes place in the Mojave—in a fictional place between Ludlow and Needles I’ve created, called Shiné (shy-knee). The working title is Rhodes. I thought it would be a thriller, but it’s turning into a mystery. I should have known!
Thank you so much for taking the time, Madeline. The good news with more standalone books is that I'll have the opportunity to meet new characters with unique problems in new locations! And now for a review of A Counsel of Ravens.
Something wicked is happening in Mohave County. Young Deputy Sheriff Melony Dibbs stops to answer a motorist's distress call, not knowing that this will be the last thing she ever does.
Chief Audrey Boyes is determined to find Melony's killer, but there are questions: Was this a random act of violence, or a case of mistaken identity? Or a serial killer intent on targeting Mojave County officers of the law?
The one person Audrey can turn to is boyfriend Hubert James Champion III, a former practicing psychologist who moved to the desert to escape his own personal demons. Unfortunately, Melony's murder stirs up Hubert's past, and he must confront the problems that drove him into seclusion.
As always, the Mohave Desert plays a character in Gornell's story; sometimes beautiful and warm, sometimes hostile and frightening, but always a presence that won't be ignored.
Assistant Sheriff Neil Knight, Ted Fletcher, Hobo and Gabe are all back in this second "Ravens" novel. Gornell takes us even deeper into these characters who we care about so much, which will make them very hard to let go if this is the last in the series. (No pressure, Madeline.)
Purchase Counsel of Ravins here or from your independent bookseller.