Jean Erhardt, a former private and legal investigator, lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Erhardt grew up in southern Ohio and spent summers in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains. She graduated from Maryville College in east Tennessee. Erhardt has written two books of fiction, Benny’s World and Kippo’s World, a book of poetry, A Girl’s Guide to God and numerous short stories, articles and poems which appeared in such publications as The Sonora Review, The Quarterly, Word of Mouth, Blue Stocking, and 8-Track Mind. She is the author of Small Town Trouble, which I review below, and today Jean is visiting here on the blog. Welcome Jean.
Hi, Kate. Thank you so much for the opportunity to stop by your awesome blog.
I think it’s so cool you were a PI. I considered it because I do legal research, sort of a techie PI, but I don’t meet the licensing requirements in Rhode Island so I remain a paralegal. How did it come about you got into the field?
A friend of mine was a Private Investigator and it looked like he was enjoying his work and, at the least, it was clearly interesting and challenging.
Were the requirements difficult?
Because I had an extensive background in investigations, it wasn’t hard for me to become licensed. Requirements vary from state to state.
Any hairy situations?
Sure, a few. I’ve been fronted off by a few angry boyfriends and husbands who didn’t particularly like me following them around. But generally, being a PI is just like any other job except that you more frequently get involved in really nutty situations.
And you paint too! Painting and writing. Just like me. So how dumb are we to be in two fields where we earn less than if we were flipping burgers? I always say painting gives me more satisfaction because only one person has to like it to be a success but a lot of people have to like your book for it to be a success, yet right now I like writing better. Which do you find more rewarding, painting or drawing, and why?
I like to do both, but usually not at the same time. I get lost and enjoy both pursuits, but they seem to tap different places in my mind and emotions.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I think so. I’ve always liked to tell a good story. I was a terrific liar as a kid.
Your first two fiction books were not mysteries. Why the change in genre?
The agent who represented my first two books told me that they didn’t fit into any particular genre. He said that they were more picaresque-like, which I had to look up. But basically what it translated to was Almost Impossible To Sell unless you are Thomas Pynchon or Charles Portis. So, I set out to write the next book in a designated genre, and chose mystery as I had always liked to read a good mystery.
J. K. Rowling has said she had all the Harry Potter books plotted out before the first one was published and knew exactly where they were going and what the end would be. I know you already have books two and three planned, but beyond that, do you know where you are going with Kim Claypoole?
Actually, I have finished four books in the Kim Claypoole series and am working on the fifth. Also, I have just begun working on a new mystery series featuring a new character, Portland, Oregon private investigator Haley Hammel. I almost never know how my character development and story arc are going to go until I am immersed in writing each book.
What writers have influenced you through the years?
I remember reading Ian Fleming as a kid and being very drawn into the sexy stories. Later, I read a lot of what is typically referred to as literary fiction. I tend to gravitate to writers whose work is spare and potent like Joy Williams, Raymond Carver and Mary Morris. Joy Williams’ stories continue to have a big influence on me. As far as mystery writers, it would be John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard and Kinky Friedman. Each of them create marvelous characters and has the qualities of spareness, a fabulous ear for dialogue, and a dry, sardonic sense of humor.
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
That would be How to Greet Strangers: A Mystery by Joyce Thompson. Why? She’s smart, a real whiz with words.
Now three things that have nothing to do with writing that I ask everybody:
- What is your favorite food?
Nothing much beats a great steak and baked potato.
- What is your favorite TV show?
I’m completely enamored with Ray Donovan at the moment. May just be the next Sopranos, but with more unsaid and emotional tautness which I love.
- What is your favorite music?
My musical tastes are eclectic. I enjoy everything from classic country to opera. Right now, my CD player is loaded with my brother John’s Cincinnati band Wussy, Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits and Wynonna Judd.
Thank you so much for being here today Jean, good luck with SMALL TOWN TROUBLE. Before you go, is there anything else you would like to tell your readers or have them know about you?
Let’s see… Writing is my favorite activity by a long shot, but enjoying good music and food run a close second. I am fortunate to have a great partner as well as family and friends, all of whom have been there 100% in support of my writing for a damn long time. Oh, and I adore my two Cairn Terriers, Higgins and Hollis and am just crazy enough to be thinking about adopting a rescued Wire Fox Terrier to add to the clan.
Thank you again, Kate, for the opportunity to be here today, reading Small Town Trouble and for writing such a wonderful review. The book is available in eBook and paperback, and an audiobook is in the works. The second book in the series, Deep Trouble, should be released in early 2014. I invite readers to be in touch and I will do my best to get back to them quickly.
Meet Kim Claypoole, restaurateur, reluctant heroine and amateur sleuth with moxie galore. “I’d had a feeling all along that this wasn’t going to be my day. But I hadn’t been prepared for things to go this badly…”
In Small Town Trouble, the first in a series from mystery writer Jean Erhardt, we get acquainted with Kim Claypoole’s irreverent and witty ways of dealing with the peculiar characters and events that she finds in her life.
Claypoole’s adventure begins as she leaves her home in the Smoky Mountains to help save her kooky mother Evelyn from financial disaster. Setting off to assist Evelyn (i.e., “the other Scarlett O’Hara”) with her newest personal crisis, Claypoole leaves in her wake her Gatlinburg doublewide, her restaurant, The Little Pigeon and her restaurant partner and sometimes best friend Mad Ted Weber as well as a budding secret love affair that’s hotter than an Eskimo in July.
Claypoole’s savior complex leads to more trouble when she bumps into an old flame in her hometown who asks for her help clearing her hapless brother of murder charges. In true Claypoole fashion, she gets more than she bargained for when she gets dragged into a complicated quest to find the true killer complete with topless tavern dancers, small town cops, a stream of backwater characters-even a meeting with the Grim Reaper. Can Claypoole muddle her way through the murky depths of this bizarre murder mystery before it’s too late?
With biting humor and wit, Small Town Trouble will leave you guessing what’s around the next corner in the quirky life of Kim Claypoole.
This was a fun read. Mainly because Kim Claypoole is a fun character. She has her problems. Her mother, Evelyn, is a handful. She is obsessed with Gone With the Wind, fancies herself as another Vivien Leigh and even has her own mini Tara. She also can’t handle money to save her life so when she has an offer on the radio station left her by her husband, the last of her holdings, she calls Kim to come home and handle it. So not only is Kim having to deal with that, she has to worry about what her business partner “Mad” Ted is doing back at their restaurant, Little Pigeon. And while she is on a “break” from girlfriend, Nancy Merit – a Martha Stewart wannabe, she hadn’t planned a long distance break. She wanted to be where she could see Nancy and talk to her any time she wanted. Kind of a non-break break. Then there are some murders to solve when childhood friend Amy’s brother is accused of the murders and Kim believes not only is he not guilty but the murders are connected to the offer on the radio station and some other properties in small town Fogerty. Kim wasn’t exactly accurate about the murderer but she was definitely in the right neighborhood and gets her and Amy in quite a bit of danger before saving the day. I am looking forward to Kim’s next adventure in what looks like it will be a very promising series. ♥♥♥♥♥
Books Two and Three coming soon!
In book two, restaurateur and amateur sleuth Kim Claypoole and her business partner and friend Mad Ted Weber are sipping beers and floating peacefully down the Little River in Walland, Tennessee when their reverie is interrupted by the sudden discovery of a dead man floating in the tangles of some tree branches. Then Claypoole’s juvenile delinquent nephew, Little Bucky goes missing after his father Bucky Sr., Claypoole’s cop cousin threatens to send him to military school. No one seems to be taking Little Bucky’s absence very seriously except Claypoole who goes on a search for him with her eccentric but faithful cousin Alonzo. She lucks into a conversation with Little Bucky’s girlfriend who is staying at a Christian Bible Camp and learns that Little Bucky has gotten himself involved with a big-time drug dealer. Then she finds out that Little Bucky stole money from the dealer who has some very bad dudes hot on Little Bucky’s trail and tells Claypoole that she’d better hope to find Little Bucky first or some very nasty things will happen to him. Things get worse from there, before anything gets better.
As book three begins, Kim Claypoole’s mostly on, but sometimes off, love interest, local TV diva Nancy Merit, discovers that her daughter Constance has gotten tangled up with a religious cult led by her creepy boyfriend’s even creepier parents. Claypoole can’t resist Nancy’s pleas to help untangle her daughter from the zealots. In the process she discovers that these people aren’t just kooks, but really dangerous kooks with a big cache of guns and even bigger plans to take over Gatlinburg where Claypoole lives and runs her restaurant, The Little Pigeon. In the middle of this drama, Nancy Merit suddenly becomes the target of an obsessed TV viewer who thinks Nancy would be better off dead and tries really hard to make that happen. Claypoole’s wacky mother, Evelyn AKA “The Other Scarlett O’Hara” decides to try help with typically outrageous results. Between the doomsday zealots and Nancy’s crazed stalker, things get very dangerous all the way around and Claypoole finds herself in a big heap of trouble.