Please welcome Don Travis on the release day of
The Voxlightner Scandal
a BJ Vinson Mystery (#6)
No good deed goes unpunished, as investigator BJ Vinson is about to discover.
Writer John Pierce Belhaven was murdered before he could reveal the name of another killer—one connected to the biggest scandal to rock Albuquerque in years. Two of the city’s most prominent citizens—Barron Voxlightner and Dr. Walther Stabler—vanished in 2004, along with fifty million dollars looted from Voxlightner Precious Metals Recovery Corp. It only makes sense that poking into that disappearance cost Belhaven his life.
But BJ isn’t so sure.
He’s agreed to help novice detective Roy Guerra reopen the old case—which the wealthy and influential Voxlightner family doesn’t want dredged up. But Belhaven was part of their family, and that connection could’ve led to his murder. Or did the sixty-year-old author die because of a sordid sexual affair?
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Recent Murder Reopens an Old Albuquerque Scandal
This was likely a local headline in the Journal in July 2011, sending that intrepid sleuth BJ Vinson and his partner, Paul Barton, headlong into a particularly dangerous case in the sixth novel in the mystery series.
Before we get into that, let me say thanks to Sandra at My Fiction Nook for allowing this guest post about The Voxlightner Scandal, which is scheduled for release by Dreamspinner Press on November 19. Sandra has been good to me; she’s guest posted on some of my earlier books.
As regular readers of My Fiction Nook may be aware, BJ is a gay, former Marine, ex- APD detective who went into the confidential investigation business when he was shot in the right thigh during an arrest attempt. His companion and lover, Paul Barton is now a freelance journalist—which when you think about it—is a confidential investigator without a license. As usual, New Mexico is the third featured player, as in all my books.
I’m a big believer in prologues to set the mood of a book, so let’s take a look at Voxlightner’s plus a little of Chapter 1:
Albuquerque, New Mexico, July 20, 2011
At ease in his comfortable North Valley home, Pierce brushed his chin with a palm, raising the irritating rasp of a five-o’clock shadow. The house lay silent, disturbed only by his knocking around in the den and the ticktock of the ornate wind-up clock resting on the mantelpiece. Overhead lights off, a reading lamp cast a soft pool of light, rescuing the room from darkness. He longed for the mellow smell of pipe tobacco, but he’d given up the vice last winter after a suspected TIA, a transient ischemic something or other.
Ensconced in his favorite recliner, he picked up a book from the coffee table and inspected it closely. His latest novel. His third. Just delivered from the publisher this morning. In a rare moment of brutal honesty, he silently admitted the most impressive thing on the cover was his name: John Pierce Belhaven. A good cognomen for an author, it rolled off the tongue and lent gravitas to the banal title Macabre Desserts. Although too egotistical to confess being a hack, in moments such as this he silently acknowledged he was no James Lee Burke. Whenever he attempted the Louisiana writer’s soaring, poetic passages, they ended up as muddy puddles of worthless ink. What was Elmore Leonard’s rule number ten? Leave out the parts nobody wants to read.
His next book would be the bleeding edge… as the younger set would say. And they would be right. His best writing to date. Possibly his signature work. A mystery like the others, the plot taking shape in his brain solved a real puzzle. One that had plagued Albuquerque for years. A scandal involving the theft of millions and the death of a respected attorney. A mystery only he could solve because he had a leg up on the competition. Years ago in his capacity as a utility company executive, he’d uncovered a crucial clue but hadn’t understood its significance until he researched this new book. He drew a deep breath as if pulling on a forbidden meerschaum. This new work would carry him from humdrum to bestseller. And his interview with Wilma Hardesty on KALB-TV—aired that very afternoon—put the world on notice he was reopening the moribund Voxlightner case with a hard-hitting exposé leading directly to the killer. All it would take was a little more investigating. Connect a few more dots, and he would be able to cut the Gordian knot.
He reached for a tumbler resting on the lamp table beside his chair and inhaled the rich aroma of Ballechin single malt before savoring its smooth, nutty, slightly honeyed taste. This new book he was laboring over would set them on their ears down at SouthWest Writers, make them sit up and take notice. He would rigorously guard against going pedantic, one of his weaknesses. Solid prose and startling action. That was the approach for this budding masterpiece. He quelled an urge to rush to his office on the other side of the house to riffle through the growing file of research on the case.
A noise from the garage brought him out of his chair. He glanced at the clock. Ten thirty-four. Who could that be at this time of night? Melanie? He shook his head. His daughter was home in Grants with her odious husband. Nor would his estranged son Harrison deign to show up at his door, probably not even to pick up his inheritance, should Pierce condescend to leave him one.
He placed his new book on the coffee table and walked to the interior garage door. As he arrived the gas-powered lawn mower roared to life.
What the hell? John Pierce Belhaven twisted the knob and stepped from his kitchen into hell.
If this was the year of the Arab Spring, this morning’s Albuquerque Journal neglected to mention it. The international lead story—above the fold—reported the bombing of the government quarter in Oslo and the subsequent murder by gunfire of sixty-nine youth activists of the Labour Party by a native Norwegian terrorist.
The below-the-fold story told of the death of local author John Pierce Belhaven in a garage fire mere blocks from my home. What snagged my attention was that the terrorist attack in Norway took place today, well today Norwegian time. The local tragedy occurred two nights ago local time. Our paper reported foreign events faster than local ones.
Paul strode into the kitchen where I sat at the table, munching an english muffin slathered with cream cheese and dusted with ground black pepper. He brought with him the aroma of his shower. He was using a new aftershave lotion…. Axe, possibly.
He halted at the sight of me. “Whoa, Vince, I was gonna fix omelets.”
The rest of the world called me BJ. This young man, my companion and the love of my life, preferred Vince, a pet name derived from my family moniker of Vinson.
“My stomach wouldn’t wait. By the way I know why we heard all those sirens Wednesday night. Garage fire down the street.”
I checked the news article. “Forty-eight eighteen.”
“I’ll admit you’re more neighborly than I am, but how do you know who lives four blocks down the street?”
A minute later he plopped a bowl of instant oatmeal on the table, apparently abandoning the idea of an omelet. “I know him from SouthWest Writers.”
About the author:
My publisher insists I furnish bio information for these things. My life is so uninteresting, I’m using the bio from my prior blog: I’m an Okie born and raised who rambled around Germany while in the US Army and Denver and Albuquerque while in the business world. A tubercular child, I grew up in the library of my small hometown rather than on the sports fields. So what else should I do but write? I was a paint artist for a while—oils and still life mostly—but that didn’t scratch my creative itch like writing did. I put away the brushes and took up the pen… well, the computer. Finding myself widowed in 2009, I flirted with moving back to Texas where most of my family has resettled, but the pull of New Mexico proved too strong. Here is where I choose to be and here… I will remain.
I welcome contact by my readers, and the following are some personal links:
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.