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Writing Crime

By Kathryn Gandek-Tighe
Posted: 2020-09-03T03:27:00Z
Dale Phillips stops by to talk about the new addition to his long running Zack Taylor mystery series and the change to short stories.

What was the a-ha moment that made you write this story?

Zack Taylor is the main character of a nice mystery series. A fellow writer, Dave Zeltserman, convinced me to write a short story about Zack. Did that, and the result was something good. Did another, and then completed a longer short from an idea that had been kicking around for a time. With 25K words for the three, it was time for a collection of shorter tales, to get readers interested in the series.

Writers usually hate writing book summaries. Share with us your real book blurb.

Grieving over a past tragedy, troubled ex-con Zack Taylor has spent a lifetime in the shadows. He has finally found a measure of peace in Maine, helping others as a way of dealing with his grief, guilt, and rage. But he finds even simple problems have unintended consequences, and danger lurks in the most unlikely places.

In these three tales, Zack encounters murderous individuals who hide below a surface of normality. He uncovers more than he bargained for at every turn, and must deal with the fallout of taking on deadly people willing to kill.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Zack. He's a complex series character with a troubled past, a rocky present, and a doubtful future, as he keeps putting himself into dangerous situations and deadly encounters. His demons and his past actions haunt him, and it's a daily struggle for him to keep things together. To cope with that, he immerses himself in the problems of others.

What is the hardest part of writing a book?

Finishing, and then publishing. Many people get an idea for a book, and a subset of those peck away at it, but never get to the final stages of editing to well-done and getting a good one out to the world. Going all the way through takes an obsessive kind of commitment, with a desire to make the work of art as good and true as your talents can muster. It means giving up many other things, and intense work and focus, despite life's challenges.

What excited you most about writing this story?

Working with Zack in a shorter form than the novels, which take time, because they have resonant themes and deep layers, reflected in the titles. The stories are quicker ways to show his various sides, and must be a complete tale, despite their brevity. Kind of an appetizer for the longer form. When I found out that I could do a shorter Zack tale and do it justice, I was excited and pleased to be able to expand that universe.

Dale has published novels, story collections, non-fiction, and over 70 short stories. Stephen King was Dale's college writing teacher, and since then, Dale has found time to appear on stage, television, radio, in an independent feature film, and compete on Jeopardy (losing in a spectacular fashion). He's a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Sisters in Crime. He's traveled to all 50 states, Mexico, Canada, and through Europe.
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