Can you tell us a little about your latest release Murder in Haxford?

While the book is a stand-alone, it does continue the adventures of Pignon Scorbion and his colorful group of amateur detective assistants who debuted in Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives. Similar to that book, in Murder in Haxford, Scorbion and his associates have to solve three crimes: a balloonist who was shot and killed by an arrow while alone and aloft in the craft, a usurious moneylender who dies in one of the barber’s chairs while having his hair cut, and a blacksmith who was murdered on his way home after helping birth two baby calves.

The action takes place in August, 1910 in the fictitious English countryside town of Haxford, where Scorbion and his helper barbers, reporter, shoeshine man and bookseller have to use their ingenuity, detecting skills and observational abilities to solve the crimes. At the same time, Scorbion has to deal with the rants and threats against him by a slimy newspaper owner and his inebriated reporter.

The book delves into the characters and their stories and details the growing relationship between bookstore owner Thelma Smith and Scorbion, complicated by the return of Scorbion’s ex-wife who wants to reunite with him, against his wishes.

I believe that the book will give readers interesting mysteries to solve, eccentric characters to enjoy, and a relief from the stresses of today’s world by transporting them back to a kinder, gentler time in a classic traditional whodunit.


What was the inspiration behind this novel?


I truly enjoy writing about Scorbion and his crew and creating (and living in within my mind) the alternate universe they populate – one that also contains Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. I was very inspired by the overwhelmingly positive responses, reactions and reviews I received for the first book from other authors, readers, publications, websites, podcasts, and also even from YA readers.

And speaking of Holmes and Poirot, my love of their books and stories, most of which I’ve read more than once, inspired me to create these characters and to write the book in a style reminiscent of Christie and Doyle.

I’ve been up in a hot air balloon and think of ballooning as a wonderful, exciting experience, and the idea of an impossible murder while aloft in one intrigued me and I just had to write it.

I also was inspired by my research into 1910 England and the people and events that took place there that summer, and I incorporated many of those things into the book to mix fiction with history.


You have had many exciting and interesting jobs in your life. Which one do you think shaped you as a person and your writing the most?

Those would be two different jobs.

The one that shaped me as a person to the greatest degree was when I worked at the music conglomerate Phonodisc, now Polygram. It was early on in my career and impacted me in numerous ways. It was the first time I had a large team of people working under me, and I had to quickly learn how to be a good leader and boss, while at the same time delivering outstanding business results. In the positions I had at Phonodisc/Polygram I had to regularly multi-task and deal with very diverse personalities and projects. I’d go from working with Gene Simmons of Kiss to John Cougar Mellencamp, to the Statler Brothers to the BeeGees to Kurtis Blow to the soundtracks to Saturday Night Fever, Chariots of Fire and This is Spinal Tap among many other acts and films.

As to the job that shaped my writing the most, it would have to be my role at Blackstone Publishing, which I’ve been a part of since 2007. In my role in business development, I have dealt with scores of authors writing in multiple genres, literary agents, acquisitions people, reviewers, editors, and managers, and in the process, I’ve read many, many manuscripts and had conversations about writing with a myriad of those people. I’ve learned what is good writing, what is bad writing, what makes authors and agents “tick” and used that information to enhance and improve my own writing. I’ve had some particularly deeper conversations about writing with authors like Rex Pickett, Andrews & Wilson, Rudy Ruiz, P.C. Cast, Heather Graham, Howard Bloom, Catherine Coulter, and Sue Purvis to name a few.

My writing was also shaped by my agents and the editors of my books, all of whom improved my writing immensely.


What do you love most about writing mystery novels?


I actually love two things almost equally.

The first is crafting the actual mysteries – making sure they’re not so hard to figure out that readers say, “how was I supposed to know that?” or so easy that halfway through the mystery everyone has figured it out. And to achieve that balance, I start off with the idea for what the crime is and who perpetrated it, and then go about writing it. After I complete a first draft, I go back and pepper the story with clues, and red herrings and make sure everything aligns correctly.

The second thing I love is writing the characters. They become an alternate set of friends and acquaintances who I enjoy meeting up with in their “world” and finding out how they interact and what they do to solve the cases. Since I don’t plot my books out in advance, but rather transcribe what I see playing in my mind, each encounter with my characters is like a new day and a new adventure.


What is your writing process and routine like?


As I just said, my process is mostly having the story play out like a movie running in my head and then capturing what I’m seeing. I do often decide what the crime will be before I sit down to write, but when I do it is solely the most rudimentary basics of the mystery – often what was done, and not always who did it. I have to keep a running list of characters on a sheet of paper since they will pop in and out of the story as I see it unfold before me.

Regarding my routine, it varies depending on whether I have a deadline or not. Because I have a job and some significant family responsibilities, I don’t have the luxury of writing at any time of the day or night, so I fit my writing into mostly evenings, weekends and occasionally during the day if there’s some down time from  my other activities. I enjoy writing, so rather than feeling like work, it feels more like an enjoyment to me, so I do write a lot.

When I do have a deadline, I set word count goals on a weekly basis rather than trying to write a certain number of words daily. There will be days I can devote a lot of hours to writing and other days not many at all, so I try to set weekly word count goals. I am pleased that I almost always achieve them or exceed them.

When I write I can have no distractions. No music playing, TVs running or other things that would divert my attention from what I am seeing play out and typing on my computer. I write in as close to absolute silence as I can achieve.


What is something you want your readers to take away from the story?

It’s not so much what I want people to take away from the story as how I want them to be affected by the story. While I do try to incorporate some real social issues of the time in the books, they are really meant to entertain and give readers relief from the stresses of today’s world.

I hope that what readers take away from the stories is that the art of the traditional, classic whodunit, is alive and well, and that Agatha Christie’s and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legacies and styles of writing are still being carried on and practiced today – albeit with a different protagonist and cast of associates and assistants. That is what I have strived to achieve.

My wish is that the two Pignon Scorbion books mystify, amuse, entertain and give enjoyment.


Who is your favorite character in this story and why?

Again, I have to give two answers.

I enjoy writing Thelma the most, so probably she is my favorite character. I’ve always appreciated intelligent, strong, attractive, independent, unconventional, and successful women and I’ve tried to write her as all of those things. I wanted to portray a woman who was ahead of her time, and one who could compete intellectually with any male. That gave me the latitude to have her involved in issues of the time like the suffragette movement, as I tried to mix true events of the era with my fictitious characters. I really like Thelma and enjoy writing her.

At the same time, I also love “knowing” and writing Scorbion. He’s a complex man with a quick brain, a sharp wit, and a commanding style. He is a puzzle solver, a sartorial dandy, and is open to being in an emotional relationship with a woman. I love to expose his quirks, as well as demonstrating his being able to see and asses things that others cannot, but at the same time I have infused him with humanity and the ability to be collegial and work with others as a team.

In actuality, I truly enjoy writing all the characters in the books. To me, they each have their own personalities and idiosyncracies, especially Billy, Thomas, Yves, Barnabus, Sergeant Adley, Dr. Morgan, Faustin Hardcastle, Harry, and Gordon Stone. And when a new story unfolds to me and I get to “meet” them again, I relish the experience.


What novels have inspired both yourself and your writing style?

First and foremost, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and books. I have read every story and novel by each of them, many more than once, and have tried to emulate their styles of writing in mine for this series. There is no one particular story from either author that stands out to me above the rest, it is the entirety of their works that has influenced me.

After that, it is an amalgamation of books by the masters of the classic whodunit and mysteries that I eagerly consumed over the course of my life, and which laid the groundwork for what I have done with Scorbion. Those include  RaymondChandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout, Chester Himes, and George Simenon among others.

However, I must also acknowledge that I have tried to incorporate humor and quirky characters in the style of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser for Hire series, and some of the fictitious historical backdrops that Clive Cussler’s books are known for.


What is your advice to aspiring writers?

There are a number of things that I’d suggest to aspiring writers, but here 5 of my top ones. I frequently share writing advice on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well.

  1. If you are going to be a writer, write. And keep writing. You will improve your craft and style as you continue to write.
  2. Live with rejection and bad reviews. They happen to everyone.
  3. Join a writers’ group where you can get great early feedback on your writing.
  4. Go to industry conventions and conferences in your genre, and network with other authors there
  5. Enjoy the process.


And finally, what are you currently reading?

I keep quite busy reading manuscripts that are submitted to me in my role at Blackstone Publishing, which often leaves me much less time to read for sheer pleasure (especially when I combine that with the hours I spend writing). Many of those manuscripts do end up becoming books we publish, and for those, I do enjoy them.

Rather than detail what I am reading, I’d like to suggest some books that are among my favorites of recent years. Only one will be a Blackstone book because I couldn’t possibly choose only one or two from among the myriad of fabulous books we’ve published and/or I’ve acquired.

The one from Blackstone is from now-deceased First Nation elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim, known to most as Grandma Aggie, who wrote the book a few years ago when she was the oldest living Native American in Oregon. The book is Grandma Says: Wake Up World! and in it, Aggie relates her wisdom, life stories, humor and anecdotes that are all aimed at improving the world and anyone’s life.

On the mystery front, I love James Anderson’s The Never-Open Desert Diner, a fabulous mystery written, coincidentally, by an Oregon author, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind, which may just be my favorite book of the last few decades.




About the Author

Rick Bleiweiss has been a successful musician, songwriter, music producer, and record company executive. He has worked as a social activist and journalist and is currently a publishing executive. His novel Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives was selected as an Amazon Editors’ Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense, as well as being chosen as one of the year’s Best New Debut Mystery Novels by Publishers Weekly. Rick lives in Ashland, Oregon, and is at work on his next Pignon Scorbion novel.