Today Bill O’Shea is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Mountain View Murder, the first novel in the Wintergreen Mystery series.
Welcome, Bill. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
Hey, Dianne, thanks for having me over to talk about the Lou Thorpe investigation.
It’s been great meeting so many new people since I’ve moved to Wintergreen, Virginia. After living my entire life in the city of Columbia, South Carolina—not a big city, but a city nonetheless—I relished the thought of retiring in a sparsely populated part of the world, a place where beauty reigned over human conflict.
I never dreamed I’d get involved in a crime investigation. I got more than my fill of that as a police detective in Columbia. I came to Wintergreen for an entirely different reason. I know about concrete and buildings and the motives of bad people, but I know nothing of the natural world. In retirement, I’d have time to learn all about it.
But then Alex Sharp, my real estate agent, who was also serving as the acting chief of the Wintergreen Police Department, asked me to help him investigate a homicide. You see, the old chief left the department suddenly, the deputy chief was out on maternity leave, and the lead investigator was in South Africa on vacation.
Here’s what happened. A guy named Lou Thorpe was out taking a walk early one morning when he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver. We had no witnesses and no car. Frankly, I never thought we’d solve the case, but one thing led to another, and we got a bit of luck, and everything worked out.
Of course, Alex thanked me profusely. And he pointed out that crime is low here in Wintergreen, so he wouldn’t need to ask me for any more favors. Then again, you never know.
Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?
Who? Patrick Kelly? When it comes to control, I wouldn’t give Patrick a high grade. Just between the two of us, he’s a bit of an odd duck—spends a lot of time in a small room with the door closed typing on a keyboard. He thinks he’s in control, with his outlines and character profiles and whatnot, but then a plot twist comes along, and all that stuff gets thrown out like stale coffee at the end of the day.
That story about the black bear? You think that was Patrick? Oh, no, that was my idea. Pretty funny, too, if I say so myself. And I’ll tell you another thing: the bit about me being afraid of heights—that’s over-exaggerated. Why would I move to a mountain resort and live in a third-floor condo if I was afraid of heights? It’s true that if I stand close to the edge of a high cliff, and there’s no railing, I tend to get a little dizzy, but who doesn’t?
How did you evolve as the main character?
A police lieutenant once told me that people can’t change their personalities after the age of thirty. Well, I’m twice that number now so I guess radical change is out of the question. But I have learned a few things in the past month. For one, in a small community like Wintergreen, word travels fast. My new friend Kim Wiley, the proprietor of Café Devine, knows everything about everyone. Yeah, she’s my go-to source from here on out.
I learned something about myself as well—I like not having a boss. It gives me a certain amount of flexibility I’ve never had before. It’s not like I’m trying to overstep my boundaries, but I can keep some things to myself that I would have felt obligated to report to my superiors in the past. That newfound flexibility might or might not have had an impact on the investigation. I can’t quite sort that out. But I do know I never would have expected the case to turn out the way it did.
Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?
If you visit the beautiful mountain resort of Wintergreen, Virginia for a vacation and need help putting together a nice meal for a special birthday or a family reunion, then you should hire Quintrell Catering. They’ll do an excellent job, and I’m not saying that just because the owner, Cindy Quintrell, is my girlfriend.
Girlfriend? That sounds nice, but truthfully, we haven’t put a formal label on our relationship. We will soon. I’m sure of it.
We have a lot in common. We’re both divorced with grown kids and are in our late fifties. (Okay, so I’m already sixty. We don’t have to split hairs. Do we?) Cindy and I agree on just about everything. Well, not everything. We do have differences of opinion on occasion, but we’ve been able to work them out so far. Of course, Cindy’s an awesome cook, which doesn’t hurt. She knew the victim and most of the suspects as well, which helped me get my footing. And she’s also a great photographer, which came in very handy as we moved toward the climax of the case.
What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?
Oh, gosh, Wintergreen is gorgeous. Let me tell you about it. After walking for exercise this morning, I strung binoculars around my neck, grabbed a mug of freshly made coffee, and ambled onto my condo balcony to enjoy the stunning view.
The crest of the hill across the wooded valley rolled softly down from the right. The curved line of the hill resembled a woman lying on her side, wider at the shoulders and the hips, narrower at the waist, beautiful and mysterious at the same time. The Mountain Inn lay at the top of the valley on the right. Idle chairlift towers and cables ran up the cleared ski slopes. Hidden ski runs cut sweeping lines through the forests. Silence hung heavy and comfortable, broken only by the intermittent chirping of small birds.
Stepping up to the balcony rail, I leaned out and scanned the line of condo buildings along my side of the valley. To the right, more buildings climbed the ridge of the hill. The sides of the small gorge met farther down the mountain and leveled out into the Rockfish Valley. Off in the distance, a soft blue haze hovered over the rounded peaks of the Blue Ridge.
There are three thousand residences up here on the mountain, but less than a thousand of us live here year-round, which makes for a small community. It’s the kind of place where you can get to know people really well. I’m still learning a lot about nature and meeting new people, but I can already tell that I’ve found a new home.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?
Two of the Wintergreen police officers helped me a lot on this investigation. They’re really top-notch. Mitch Gentry is a huge man and a relatively young policeman, but he’s a super-quick study. Mitch knows the mountains in this area well and helped me think through how people could get from one place to another on the hiking trails around here. Krista Jackson is a single mom in her late thirties who works in the office. She tells funny stories about her kids and their dogs. Whenever I leave her cubicle, I have a smile on my face. And she’s really good at working the internet. Seems like there’s nothing she can’t find.
Yeah, there are a bunch of great people up here in Wintergreen. But they’re not all perfect. Might even be a murderer or two lurking somewhere.
Dianne, thanks for inviting me to visit and tell you a little about the Wintergreen Mystery world. Next time you’re in Virginia, be sure to drive up and see us, and if you need some help putting together a special meal, be sure to call Quintrell Catering.
Thanks, Bill, and good luck to you and your author, Patrick Kelly, with The Mountain View Murder, the first book in the Wintergreen mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Pat Kelly: Pat was raised in the idyllic suburb of Yorktown, Virginia, where children ran barefoot through the grass and fished in the York River. After graduating from UVA, he left the state to pursue a career in finance. He settled in Texas, married a wonderful woman (Susie), and together they raised two daughters in Austin. With the girls now grown and gone, Pat has pursued a lifelong love of writing stories. Countless hours at the keyboard have produced the Joe Robbins Thriller Series, two book awards, and four standalone novels. A few years ago, Pat and Susie bought a summer home in the bucolic mountaintop resort of Wintergreen, Virginia. The beautiful vistas there inspired Pat to write a cozy mystery series featuring the reluctant detective Bill O’Shea. Join Pat’s newsletter to follow Bill’s adventures as he dodges irrepressible bears, pursues romance, and solves mysteries.