Murder makes the heart grow fonder
Apple Valley writer and his father co-author mystery novel ‘Sleuth Slayer’
Apple Valley author Jeffrey Burton has published dozens of mystery, horror and science-fiction stories since he took up writing as a hobby about a dozen years ago.
When he got around to writing his first novel – a crime thriller about a serial killer who preys on mystery writers – he realized a collaboration with another writer might be in order, someone who could nail the nitty-gritty details of police investigations, court hearings and true crime.
He didn’t have to look far. “Sleuth Slayer,” published this spring by Pocol Press, is co-authored by Burton and his father, Bruce.
They split the writing duties about 50-50, Jeffrey said. And each brought something different to the table.
Bruce, a semiretired law professor and former dean of William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, brought his legal expertise to a plot that involves an estate battle and court proceedings.
This was Bruce’s first real stab at writing fiction. Though he has written scads of articles for legal journals and even a three-act play about a second-century heresy trial that was published in the Gonzaga Law Review, it was his son’s background in fiction writing that helped drive the plot, he said.
“The kid taught me a lot of tricks,” Bruce said. “My whole background was law – I was very formalistic, very stiff. I would have people speaking like they were at a deposition. Jeff loosened me up and humanized the characters.”
Bruce said he also appreciated the “Dostoevskyan darkness” his son brought to the novel.
“Jeff has a much deeper understanding of human nature than I’d ever expected,” he said. “He did things that were layers of psychological complexity.”
Though a few minor quibbles arose throughout the writing process, the partnership didn’t cause any major rifts.
“The running joke has been: By the fifth time my dad wrote me out of his will, the book was done,” Jeffrey said.
And both approached the project as a labor of love, rather than a financial investment.
“On this one, we figure we’ll make enough to pay for the ink jet,” Bruce said with a laugh.
Which is about par for the course, according to Jeffrey.
The most he’s ever received for a short story he has written is $25. Only the really big names of genre fiction – the Stephen Kings, Anne Rices and the like – can earn a living as writers, he said.
A computer-based training-course designer for HealthPartners, Jeffrey is content with keeping writing as his hobby.
“Sleuth Slayer” is Jeffrey’s second book of fiction. He published “Shadow Play,” a short-story collection, in 2005.
“Sleuth Slayer” is available for $17.95 at online bookstores, including Amazon.com and Borders, and directly from Pocol Press at www.pocolpress.com. More information about the authors is available at www.somehack.com.