Q & A with Pat Stoltey – “Dead Wrong”

DeadWrongFront 264x408Who doesn’t love a chase scene? Planes, buses, cabs, rental cars and all your systems on high alert. Every move matters. Every decision is critical. Patricia Stoltey’s Dead Wrong starts with one bad assumption and puts the wheels in motion. In this case, the wheels on a jet plane heading down a runway. You read Dead Wrong and wonder what Alfred Hitchcock might have done with it. The story includes a touch of Elmore Leonard (deliciously quirky bad guys) and a hefty dose of jeopardy. A review follows. First, Pat was kind enough to answer a few questions about the tale.

Question: What inspired Dead Wrong?

Stoltey: The criminals in the novel, boss Benny Ortega and his not-so-trusty gofer, Fat Ass Sammy Grick, are involved in a check theft ring. Sammy is the courier carrying checks stolen in Florida to his boss who’s waiting in California to deposit them through a California bank then pull the money right back out to purchase precious metals. A situation like this actually happened to a company I worked for many years ago, although Benny and Sammy were not involved. I’m not sure where they came from — it might indicate my imagination has gone a little crazy. Anyway, I was privileged to serve as witnesses in two federal cases, one civil and one criminal, so I had some first-hand education in how it all works.

Question: Did you find yourself thinking about the plot differently when writing a ‘thriller’ compared to writing a ‘mystery’? What’s the difference, in your mind?

Stoltey: I felt as though I’d started all over again. The genres are very different. My amateur sleuth mysteries are very close to a traditional mystery format with properly placed clues, everything revealed to the protagonist is also revealed to the reader, and there’s a proper resolution at the end of the story.

The suspense/thriller is a lot more flexible in my opinion. There’s a threat to the main character or to a larger community. The main character is drawn into that threat, often unwillingly, and all effort is applied to escaping or defusing the threat and returning life to normal. There may be a mystery to solve along the way (who’s behind the threat or plot, for instance), but if there are multiple points of view, the reader often knows things the main character does not. The threat is eliminated at the end of the novel, but there’s not usually a formal denouement as with the traditional mystery.

Question: This seems like a very timely topic, since Dead Wrong starts with domestic violence and events spiral out of control. Is there a message here?

Stoltey: I wanted Lynnette to be vulnerable but not play the victim. We see so many stories of folks who forgive violence over and over until the abuser kills or maims them. Lynnette wasn’t about to forgive Carl for punching her in the face, but she was scared enough to be smart. She stayed calm, did not fight back or antagonize him, and picked a safe moment to get away. I want the reader to give Lynnette credit for leaving and for doing it without getting hurt any worse than she already was.

Question: Without giving anything away, it seems to be the biggest challenge for this story was figuring out how to justify Lynette’s not running right to the cops? How did you go about thinking this through?

Stoltey: That’s a question I had to ask myself in almost every chapter as I put Lynnette in one bad situation after another and made her find her way out. Why didn’t she go to the cops after Carl punched her? She’s a newspaper reporter and she knew of many stories where the police protected their own in cases of domestic violence. She didn’t know the men and women who worked with Carl, so she feared Carl would be turned loose and she’d have to face his wrath again.

By the time Lynnette realized the danger she was in from Sammy the thug, she had a runaway girl following her around for protection. Her compassion (and a bit of gullibility) kept her from turning the kid over to the police and Social Services. She wanted to get the girl to a safe place before involving the police in her own situation.

Pat StolteyThe other factor is Lynnette’s messed up emotions. That combination of fear, sadness, and stress can lead to some strange decisions, ones we don’t think we would make. The truth is, we might do even crazier stuff under that kind of stress. I hope we don’t ever have to find out.

Question: What’s next?

Stoltey: I’m finishing up the first draft of a novel I classify as psychological suspense. It’s not a sequel, but I took the young female cop from Dead Wrong, Maggie Gutierrez, aged her five years, promoted her, and staged a murder for her to solve on her first day as detective.

I also have a manuscript of historical fiction I’m revising (for about the 20th time). I hope to have it ready for submission soon.

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Patricia Stoltey is the author of two amateur sleuth mysteries, The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders, featuring 60-something ex-judge Sylvia Thorn and her older brother, Willie Grisseljon. A retired accounts payable manager, Patricia currently resides in Colorado with her husband and their best friend, Katie Cat. Patricia is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, International Thriller Writers, and Northern Colorado Writers. Visit her blog or find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Google+.

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Review:

From the opening sentence, Lynette Foster is staggering. Reeling. “She raised her head and stared at her fingers, now smeared with red streaks. Liquid oozed down her throat when she tilted her head back. She gagged and coughed.”

Patricia Stoltey starts Dead Wrong mid-fight—a domestic dispute. Her husband, a cop, has been demoted for over-zealously trying to break up a fight. “Punks.” (Talk about a theme ripped from today’s headlines.) Carl, the cop, starts slamming doors and acting ornery, then taking it out on Lynette when she tries to get him to settle down.

Meanwhile, Sammy Grick is just trying to do his job. He’s a courier. He works for a man named “Mr. O,” Mr. Ortega. He’s a “vicious slimeball.” Sammy has got an assignment that might be his “best chance to make good and get more responsibility, do something more respectable than smashing fingers with a ball-peen hammer or hoisting bodies into dumpsters that reeked of rotten meat.”

But Sammy is prone to mistakes. Slip-ups. Details are not his friend. He’s so big he needs two airplane seats. His nickname is “Fat Ass.”

Soon, Lynette and Sammy are on the same plane out of Miami International Airport. They don’t know each other but matching carry-on luggage is about to bring them together in a way that neither really wants. Lynette sips martinis. Sammy sips Jack Daniels. (These drinks don’t mix well; neither do their drinkers.)

When Carl turns up dead, well, by now we are in full-tilt motion. Lynette has the wrong piece of luggage and Sammy, in short, needs it back. Big-time. To complicate matters, Lynette has befriends an eleven-year-old runaway girl who follows her off the plane.

Dead Wrong is all action. We’re soon in Colorado and the weather is frightful. Lynette has stories to sort out, voice mail messages to decipher and hiding places to find. Sammy gets some help in tracking Lynette by a hapless thug named Albert Getz and Stoltey dishes heaps of misery on both of Lynette’s pursuers. Um, more than misery in some cases. Twists of fate yank hard. Dead Wrong is one solid ride.