First thing you should know about Tom Hopp is that he is very likely smarter than you. I know he’s smarter than me. I mean, anyone who clones and patents, as Tom describes, ”human immune system hormone genes” and “produced the first commercially successful nanotechnology device” is probably smarter than most anyone, right?
But Tom is also a great storyteller, as anyone who has read a book or two from his Dinosaur Wars series can attest. I’ve have the opportunity to listen to Tom talk about biological warefare and other fascinating topics as a featured speaker MWA Northwest, as well as over beers a few times, so needless to say I was also very happy to get his short, “The Ghost Trees”, as part of West Coast Crime Wave.
Here’s what Tom had to say..
Tell us what makes your city/location a unique and interesting setting for crime fiction.
West Seattle is the navel of the universe. It’s the place where Chief Seattle’s Duwamish Tribe chose to dwell from ancient times until the coming of global corporate culture swept them away. I was raised in a housing project along the banks of that muddy old Duwamish River and probably picked up some of its industrial contamination on my shoes as a toddler. Now Seattle rain falls down gently on my head as if to wash me clean and remind me of those old days. I rarely avoid a drizzle. The very definition of a Seattleite could be “someone without the sense to come out of the rain.” I guess that includes me.
Tell us a little bit about the story’s main character.
Peyton McKean is a very smart guy. Some say he’s got the “greatest mind since Sherlock Holmes” and I don’t doubt it’s true. Like Holmes and I, he’s a biotechnology researcher. I remind you that Holmes, in his first adventure “A Study In Scarlet,” invented a biochemical test to detect blood stains. Peyton McKean works with DNA tests but don’t assume he’ll just swab some bullet or bloodstain or kitchen knife and cry, “Aha, we’ve got our man!” the way they do on TV shows. Dr. McKean is not so much a user of DNA tests as an inventor of DNA tests. When he’s summoned to a crime scene, odds are that something has gone terribly wrong with a DNA test and the master is needed to figure out why.
Like Holmes, McKean is usually accompanied by an able-bodied helper. Phineas (Fin) Morton is an ex-Iraq medical corpsman and now a medical journalist, who often gets swept up in McKean’s adventures as the driver of a midnight blue Ford Mustang and chronicler of McKean’s deeds. It’s good that Fin has had some combat experience. As often as not the two adventurers are cast into a life-or-death struggle with the bad guys before the crime gets solved.
This anthology is an e-book from a new publisher. In general, how do you as an author see the opportunities in publishing changing with the growth of e-books?
I would have to characterize my personal experience of e-book publishing as explosive. I write science fiction as well as mystery stories, and within three months of having released the Kindle edition of my Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall novel, a Hollywood director called me on the phone and told me he’d read my book cover-to-cover, loved it, and wanted to make a major motion picture out of it. I said, “Abda, abda, abda, O.K!” and signed over the rights as quickly as I could. Stay tuned.
Obviously, I’m a big advocate of the e-book approach to publishing. There’s nothing much wrong with paper publishing, but that dinosaur book languished for ten years as an overpriced paperback. Then three months as an e-book and wham! Not only are sales running amok at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com but I’m starting to actually make a little money at this. Before long I believe most authors will publish e-books first and then chat with some paper publishers as a second approach, not the other way around. It’s all good.
Tell us what’s in store for you over the next 6 to 12 months.
I’ve been developing two separate lines of fiction stories. “The Ghost Trees” in West Coast Crime Wave is one adventure in my Peyton McKean Mystery series of short stories and novels. Others can be found at most e-book sellers, including “The Re-Election Plot,” about a faked Osama bin Laden tape and election tampering. That one is still very current, even if Osama isn’t. The about-to-be released “A Dangerous Breed” is my answer to Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Talk about yer scary dogs.
The other line is the aforementioned Dinosaur Wars series of novels dealing with space invaders who happen to be intelligent dinosaurs returning to claim their home world — our world — after 65 million years. Don’t prepare to be scared, prepare to be eaten! I’ve also been putting out short stories featuring the young heroes Chase Armstrong and Kit Daniels. Chase is featured in the recently released, “Something in the Jungle,” where he investigates a series of deaths in the jungles of Mexico’s Costa Verde coast. Kit gets her featured role in an up-coming adventure set at her ranch in Montana, entitled “Riding Quetzalcoatlus.” Check all this and more out on my blog if you’d like to keep abreast of future developments. I’m writing as fast as I possibly can and I’ve got lot of new stories in the works.
Oh, and — this shouldn’t be an afterthought — I do still have a couple of stories circulating on paper: “Blood Tide,” about a Duwamish Indian suspect and a murdered geoduck digger featured as the lead-off story in the anthology Seattle Noir, and the first Peyton McKean Mystery novel, The Jihad Virus. Paper can be nice, too.
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