Interview with Greg Messel: 'Writing allows you to escape into another world' #authorinterviews

Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol.  Fog City Strangler is his seventh novel and is the fourth in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper.

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Can you tell us what your book is about? 
Private Eye Sam Slater has a lot to worry about.  For one, a murderer is stalking San Francisco’s streets, preying upon young blonde women.  For another, Slater’s wife Amelia is a stunning blonde who works as a stewardess and also
happens to be the face of TWA’s new ad campaign.  With her face on billboards all over the city, Slater’s wife Amelia’s new, high profile status is poorly timed. As the “Fog City Strangler” taunts both the cities’ inhabitants and the authorities by sending a scrap of each victim’s clothing with a note to the local newspapers, Slater feels his wife’s high profile could turn her into a prize target. 

Slater’s plate seems plenty full when he and Amelia are hired to find a missing woman, the sole daughter of a wealthy dowager.  The woman seems to have vanished into thin air, and the police investigating the crime are baffled.  As Slater and Amelia delve deeper into the mystery they discover that nothing is as it seems; worse, there may be someone lurking in the shadows who will stop at nothing to keep them from learning the truth.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Sam Slater is a retired baseball player. His career ended in 1957 when big league baseball came to San Francisco. Sam takes over his best friend's private eye business when his pal is brutally murdered. At the same time Sam meets a dazzling woman--Amelia Ryan--who's a TWA stewardess. When Amelia is not flying around the country or the world, she helps Sam solve his cases. The series is set in the late 1950s in San Francisco, which is a great setting and interesting time. Sam and Amelia are surrounded by a cast of colorful characters who intersect with their life.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
I have had some reviewers say that San Francisco is one of the main characters in the book. I agree with that. San Francisco is a great backdrop for my story. I also think that the time period matters a great deal. I dislike books that have no sense of time. In other words, they could be happening any time, the time frame is plain vanilla. My books are set in the 1950s which makes for some interesting twists. Like was so different then. San Francisco with it’s picture postcard scenery and the water and the fog, make a great setting, rich in possibilities. 

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening? 
Sam and Amelia Slater have just finished hearing the story from a wealthy dowager about the day her daughter disappeared. Sam and Amelia are puzzling on page 69 about where to begin to look for a woman who seems to have vanished without a trace. 

What do you like the most about being an author?
Writing allows you to escape into another world. When I’m in the thick of writing a new novel, you live in the world your character inhabits. I feel a sense of loss when the book is done. My trips back to that imaginary place and time are over. 

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?
I have found that I’m most successful when I am just myself as a writer. If you try to be someone else you will not be successful. I always want to improve as a writer and I am constantly learning but I also can’t be someone else. I have to write what is in my heart and mind. Hopefully, others will enjoy your story. It’s important to remember that not everyone will like your book which doesn’t mean it isn’t good. 

About the Book:

As 1958 nears an end San Francisco is being terrorized by a man who calls himself the “Fog City Strangler,” who preys on pretty young blonde women.  The strangler announces each murder by sending a note and piece of cloth from the victim’s dresses to the local newspapers.

Private eye Sam Slater is worried that the Fog City Strangler may be eyeing his beautiful blonde wife, stewardess Amelia Ryan. Sam’s angst mounts as the strangler continues to claim more victims. His anxiety is further fueled when TWA launches an advertising campaign with Amelia’s picture on a series of billboards plastered all over the city. Sam fears the billboards may attract too much attention--the wrong kind of attention.

Meanwhile, Sam and Amelia are hired to try to find the missing daughter of a wealthy dowager who fears she has lost her only child. The missing woman went for a walk with her dog on Stinson Beach, near San Francisco, and seemingly vanished into thin air. The woman’s husband arrived at their beach house and found the dog running loose but there was no trace of his wife. The police are stumped in their investigation.

As Sam and Amelia look into the disappearance of the woman on the beach they discover that nothing is as it seems at first glance. On a stormy night a shadowy figure sets fire to the beach house where the couple is staying--hoping to stop their investigation.

Fog City Strangler is a stand-alone thriller but is part of the Sam Slater Mystery Series--Last of the Seals, Deadly Plunge and San Francisco Secrets.

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