Please welcome D.R. Martin to the blog with his thriller Smoking Ruin.
Minneapolis PI Marta Hjelm failed to prevent a preventable murder. Her guilt has brought her right to the edge of burnout and dropout. But a prize specimen from her ancient past—her cheating ex-husband—appears out of nowhere with a gig too good to turn down. One last job, Marta figures, can’t hurt.
But hurt it does, as Marta tries to make sense of a terrorist plot at a major ad agency. In the dead of a long, bitter Minnesota winter, Marta struggles to survive attempts on her life. To understand her conflicted feelings toward an ex who wants her back, and toward the man who healed her when everything was dark. To make peace with the ghost of a victim she should have saved. And to crack open multiple conspiracies that lead to murder and smoking ruin.
Snuggled tight in the heated basement garage, the ad agency’s Lexus started like a charm. I touched the button on the remote door control, and drove up and out into the brutal January night. I turned right, through the back parking lot, and right again, around the end of the building, into the front parking lot, past my frozen Mercury Marquis.
A minute later I was curving north and east at a good clip, toward Wayzata, feeling like a rally driver. The sky was a deep azure, clear as glass and full of the stars you don’t often see in the city.
It was the first time that day I’d felt relatively on top of the situation. Sure, plenty of things were screwed up.
My boyfriend Rick needed calming down and getting home, where he belonged. I’d had to go to work for people I didn’t like, for a cause that gave pause. And my reaction to seeing my ex Terry again made me a little queasy. What’s up with that? I asked myself. But clear them all up—and I had no doubt that I would—and things looked a lot better.
I tooled over a narrow bridge, went left, then right, the lake only a dozen feet away. The headlights caught the glitter of ice on the road. I lightly tapped the brakes, but didn’t feel them catch. No anti-lock kicking in. Doing something wrong, I thought, as my heart accelerated and my gloved hands squeezed the wheel harder.
I feathered the brakes again—a reflexive, fluttery tapping of my right foot, from teen driving days—as I came onto the ice. I was going way too fast. Again, nothing happened. The Lexus kept rolling.
Turning the wheel left, I could feel my heart coming up into my mouth.
The tires refused to find a purchase on the ice and the car began to yaw sideways.
I kept feathering the brakes, then pressed hard. The pedal went to the floor with a forbidding “thunk.”
The road curved left again, but the Lexus kept going straight.
A puny steel-cable guard rail came up fast as a shot and the front of the Lexus
sheared through it with a percussive roar.
I was briefly airborne over eight feet of steep shoreline, starting to scream, when the car nosed down.
The frozen lake rushed toward me, brilliant in the headlights, like a wall of dirty, corrugated granite.
Personal Notes: Fact in the Fiction
Not every fictional character reflects the author’s history, personality, and point of view. But many of them do—at least in part. We writers borrow from our own experiences to add color and dimension to the people who populate our pages. They may be tiny little brush strokes and shadings here and there. Or they may be the dominant character traits and back-story themes of the protagonist. Or anything in between.
In my mystery novel Smoking Ruin, I do bring a little of my history and outlook to the narrator of the story, Minneapolis private investigator Marta Hjelm. Almost forty, she’s facing the challenge of her career in a case that involves extortion—and ultimately murder most dreadful—at a prominent advertising agency. Complicating everything is the reappearance of two men who, years earlier, made her life a misery. Her ex-boss and her ex-husband.
Marta was an arts journalist in her post-college days. And so was I. Marta edited a weekly arts and entertainment newspaper for a difficult boss. And so did I.
And just as I was, Marta, at forty, was still aching from the loss of her beloved dad—who smoked himself to death by lung cancer. Donald R. Hjelm, in fact, shared a few traits with Donald R. Martin—including a career in insurance, serving as a medic in the Battle of Peleliu, and smoking lots of cigarettes. The two men even spent their last months in their kids’ homes and died in the very same hospital in the very same way.
The smoking angle—from my own personal history—was what I used to push Marta into a hard, hard dilemma: Take a case involving an ad agency doing work for the very same company whose product killed her dad? Or forgo the big wad of money that could smooth her transition into a new career?
I’ve never found myself in that sort of spot. In my long career as a business copywriter, I’ve never had to create marketing material to promote a product I found morally reprehensible. So I don’t have personal experience with that kind of tough choice. But because Marta was an extension of me, in some respects, I had her do what I’d probably have done: Say yes, while holding her nose. Of course, she had to say yes or there’d have been no novel. But I have to admit that big money has a way of damping down ethical qualms. At least it does for many people.
I hope readers will be entertained by both the moral dilemma and the investigative challenges that Marta faces in this book.
D.R. Martin is offering one commenter per day a copy of Smoking Ruin either print or Ebook. Ebook only for international. There will also be one grand prize winner throughout the tour. The grand prize is a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
All contest are open through Friday at Midnight and contacted the following week.
Be sure to follow the tour and comment to increase your odds of winning.
Tour Schedule for Smoking Ruin by D.R. Martin
November 5th - Author Harlie Williams
November 6th - Harlie's Books
November 7th - Romance Book Craze
November 8th - My Reading Obsession
November 9th - House Millar