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April 24, 2023

Gillespie Field Groove, the fifth book in the Rolly Waters Mystery series, follows Rolly Waters, a guitar-playing private detective on the hunt for a lost Hendrix guitar. BookLife Reviews gave it an Editor’s Pick, writing, “Lovers of a good mystery story and music will enjoy this book, which is as musically educational as it is thrilling.”     

What inspired the character of Rolly Waters?

I was a musician for many years, playing at clubs and other venues in Southern California. After that, I ended up in the tech business, working for an infamous internet startup called The company lost the largest copyright lawsuit in U.S. history. After that, it was taken over by a major corporation. The culture became more corporate too, and my job was less interesting. I needed something creative to keep me going. I was a big mystery fan, especially of Ross Macdonald’s Archer novels set in Southern California. The idea of a guitar-playing private detective had been bouncing around in my head, so I started using lunch breaks to sketch out ideas for a novel. That led to the first Rolly Waters mystery, Black’s Beach Shuffle, which mashed together my time in the music business with my experiences in the startup world. Write what you know!  

Setting is a big part of the series. How do you incorporate real-life San Diego into the books?

San Diego is a critical part of the series. It’s practically a secondary character. I’m a native San Diegan and decided from day one that I would set the series here. Each book “travels” to a different part of the county for its setting. I wanted to highlight aspects of the city tourists never see.   

What do you think a good mystery has to have?  

Intrigue is essential, arousing the curiosity of the reader. That’s a mystery’s first job. Each chapter needs to raise another question in the reader’s mind. If you answer one question by the end of a chapter, that answer needs to raise a new question. That’s the mechanism. But you don’t want the reading of the book to feel mechanical. Mysteries are not character studies. I try to give my characters as much life and color as I can while keeping those mechanics in place. I like adding dashes of character-based humor as well. Rolly is a cozy hero in a noir world. The tension between those two elements is key to the series.  

How do you imagine readers at this moment will connect to Gillespie Field Groove?

The book starts in 1969 outside a Jimi Hendrix concert at the then San Diego Sports Arena, with the idea that some of the people who meet there will be involved in the search for a “lost” Hendrix guitar set in our time. I did not realize when I started writing that the plot would be thematically related to the #MeToo movement. There have always been strong and compelling female characters in the Rolly Waters books, but this book seems to have struck a particularly strong chord, if you will, among female readers. A friend of mine said she cried at the end, which is not something I’d expected, but on further reflection I started to understand how the ending might provide a sense of relief. Justice is served in a unique and empowering way.

Can readers expect another book in the series?

I’m shuffling around a few ideas for Rolly Waters, but my next book will be a departure from the series. It’s a historical mystery set in the affluent seaside resort of La Jolla, Calif., in the 1950s. A rookie cop seeks to restore his family’s good name after his father’s suicide, but his high-minded principles are put to the test when the search for a stolen suitcase implicates the rich and famous guests of the Hotel del Charro, including Raymond Chandler, J. Edgar Hoover, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.