Welcome Guest Roger Johns!

By Sherry — I’m so delighted to introduce you to Roger Johns!

Roger’s debut book Dark River Rising released on August 29 from Minotaur Books! Here’s a bit about the book: Dark River Rising is a tense and expertly-plotted mystery set against the bayous of Louisiana, from debut author Roger Johns.

Baton Rouge Police Detective Wallace Hartman has had better days. With her long-time partner and mentor on medical leave and a personal life in shambles, she’s called to the scene of a particularly gruesome murder: the body of a known criminal has been found in a deserted warehouse, a snake sewn into his belly. Obvious signs of torture point to a cunning and cold-blooded killer who will stop at nothing to find what he’s looking for.

When Federal Agent Mason Cunningham arrives on the scene, Wallace expects a hostile takeover of the case. But when a scientist with ties to the victim goes missing from a government lab, she needs Mason’s federal connections as much as he needs her local insight, and the two form an uneasy partnership to solve a case that grows more complicated—and dangerous—by the minute.

Meanwhile, the killer lurks in the shadows with an agenda no one saw coming, and when Wallace and Mason threaten to get in the way they risk losing everything they hold dear. Including their lives.

Thanks for joining us today, Roger!

Thank you, to the fantastic Wicked Cozy Authors for having me on the blog today. Full disclosure: I am most certainly a cozy reader, but I am (gulp!) not a cozy writer. Gritty, hard-boiled, and neo-Noir would be pretty good descriptors for the category I belong in. Contemporary writers like Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Craig Johnson, and Tess Gerritsen would be good shelf-mates. And, if you look back a few years, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels would also be kindred spirits. So, at least the ‘wicked’ aspect of the blog title is probably apropos.

That said, I’m absolutely thrilled to be in the company of the Wicked Cozy Authors and their readers, today. Trust me, every first-time mystery writer longs for a chance in a spotlight this big and bright. And . . . there’s a little bit of a story behind how this happened. It falls into what my wife and I call the “You just never know ____________” category. There are the usual ways we would all fill in that blank, such as “You just never know . . .

* what you’re gonna find if you stop at that garage sale,” or

* what kind of meal you’re going to have when you try that new Ethiopian restaurant,” or

* whether you’re going to feel guilty for buying that budget-busting sport coat/pair of shoes/Maserati until after you’ve brought it home.”

And, today’s blank can be filled in with another of the old standards: “You just never know . . .

* who you’re gonna meet when you share a taxi from the hotel to the airport at the end of a mystery readers and writers convention in New Orleans . . . in October . . . of last year.”
The convention–Bouchercon 2016, by the way–was a great deal of fun. A year earlier, I had never even heard of, much less been to Bouchercon. But as I got deeper into the business of being an author I started learning about all these cool goings-on in the mystery reader-writer world. Maybe it was a blessing that I hadn’t known before, because I can see myself having dropped a ton of cash on it over the years. In any event, there I was, in the Crescent City, mingling with all these writers whose books I’d spent a lifetime reading, and meeting new writers and fellow readers. I didn’t have a book in play at the time–that was still about ten months away– so, in a sense, I was pressing my nose to the glass, but what a fine time it was.

Oh, and about that taxi ride, I tried hard not to eavesdrop (yeah, right!), but from a foot away, inside a van, afflicted with a congenitally nosey streak, it’s impossible not to overhear what your fellow riders are talking about. Mysteries, of course. Well, one thing led to another, and eventually I was invited into the conversation and eventually (and very nervously, I must add) I told my travel companions that I was in the early stages of being a mystery writer myself. My fellow riders–Sherry Harris (yes, that Sherry Harris) and Julianne Holmes (yes, that Julianne Holmes)–were so kind and so generous with their advice and in the recounting of their early experiences in the writing biz. I wish I had a video of the conversation to put up with this blog post.

There’s something exceptional about the reading-writing community, in general, and about the mystery-reading and writing community, in specific. Given that murder and mayhem are our stock in trade, it really is a remarkably good-natured slice of humanity (pun intended). In this ultra-competitive, too-often ill-mannered world we live in, it’s refreshing and affirming to be so readily embraced by the people who are already making the writing world go around. In my earlier incarnations, I met plenty of unpleasant people, but I have yet to encounter a single one in the reader-writer community. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has been so thoughtful and helpful and friendly, and so much fun to be around. We people of the book are a special tribe, and we should take a great deal of pride in this.

Author Bio: Roger is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor, with law degrees from LSU and Boston University. Before, during, and after those endeavors, and before turning to mystery writing, he also worked as a script reader, drapery hanger, waiter, book seller, tuxedo rental clerk, ranch hand, television-commercial agent’s assistant, and party photographer–among other things. His debut novel–Dark River Rising–was released in August of this year by Minotaur Books-St. Martin’s Press.


Readers: What “you just never know” moments have you had?

25 Thoughts

  1. Roger, welcome to the Wickeds – and congratulations on your debut novel! I love that you met Sherry and Julie in a cab, of all places.My “you just never know” has to be…what will happen after you get your knee replaced and are out of the workplace for three months and realize you really want to write mystery fiction full time instead of returning to the day job! What happened was the time to write three books under multi-book contracts every year. I’m living my dream and I really don’t look back.

    I don’t read much in the way of gritty – but you’ve convinced me to try Dark River Rising. Best of luck with it!

    1. Thanks, Edith. It’s delightful to read your “You just never know . . . ” story. It really is a source of constant amazement to me, how these things happen, and I’m so glad that yours put you on a path you’ve gotten so much joy from and that gives all of us mystery readers so many more fun reading times.

  2. Welcome to the Wickeds, Roger. I agree that the mystery community is a welcoming, warm place. The authors, book bloggers, bookstore owners, librarian, agents, editors and readers all combine to create a place where people are supportive and fun.

    1. Thanks, Barbara. Embracing the writing life was a bit unsettling in the beginning, so I’m eternally grateful that the folks involved are a truly happy community to be a part of.

  3. Welcome! And you’re right–the writers community is the most supportive I’ve ever encountered (and like you, I’ve tried out quite a few!) As for the question, “you just never know what’s under the floor you’re replacing in a lean-to behind the house.” (Which included a Civil War cannonball and a coffin plate.)

    1. Thanks, Sheila. Two very interesting artifacts in a most interesting juxtaposition. Sounds like there’s a story there – a historical mystery story!!!

  4. I hadn’t heard the cab story, but I too can vouch for the kindness of the mystery community. At one of my first Malice events, members of the Wicked Cozy group invited me, the person alone behind them in line, to join the table they sat at …. and then adopted me during events later that year at Crime Bake. Like you, I appreciate their generosity, as well as that of other groups throughout the mystery community. Enjoyed seeing you at DBF and at Atlanta functions….your book is sitting atop by TBR pile.

    1. I enjoyed seeing you at DBF and the other SinC functions around Atlanta, as well. Sometimes, in life, we just get lucky, and I count finding my way into the crime fiction/mystery writing world as one of the luckiest breaks of all. Hope you enjoy Dark River Rising.

  5. You certainly got on the right taxi/shuttle, Roger! They may call themselves “wicked” but a nicer group of people, you’ll never meet. That goes for the whole community (although the Wickeds are an extra special bunch). You’d never expect so many people with murder in their hearts would be so warm and open; woe to you if you’re fictional, though. 🙂

    You just never know? I mean, that’s life. If you’re doing it right, I suppose. I’ve not always been good at appreciating the You Never Knows as something to look forward to but … I’m getting better at it.

    So, you just never know what will happen when you read a blog post by a new-to-you author and find some existential meaning in a simple question. 😉

    1. Hi Aimee. I did, indeed, get into the right taxi. What are the odds, right? A few seconds one way or another and I might have been riding with a . . . well, you just never know. Lucky me. And like you, I feel like I’m getting better as seeing and understanding and appreciating the subtleties of fortune. You’re right – it’s life, and we need to see it. Thanks for such a thought-provoking comment.

  6. Thanks for hanging out with us today, Roger! Meeting you was a great “you just never know” moment. I’ve had a lot of those with the mystery community from meeting Julie to walking into the Chesapeake Chapter meeting for the first time when I moved back to Virginia.

    1. This has been so much fun. Thank you, again, for inviting me to hang out with such a great group of readers and writers. Reading the “you just never know” accounts that are coming in is so interesting and enlightening.

  7. You just never know where an act of kindness will lead. I offered to share my blanket with another attender at a lacrosse match because the stands were full and it led to a 36 year marriage.

    1. Hi Barbara. Wow! What a fantastic story. It’s always so gratifying to see where the magic of kindness can lead us, and how when you least expect it, it can vector your life into the most wonderful directions.

  8. Good to see you over at Wicked Cozy, Roger (says the writer who is also not really cozy). You are certainly right about the welcoming nature of the crime-fiction community.

    1. Thanks, Liz. I still marvel at the irony of it – how the nicest, kindest, most welcoming folks just happen to write about people who are so exactly the opposite. Maybe its an interesting variation on the ‘opposites attract’ theme.

  9. It would be hard to beat yours and Sheila’s “you never know” moments. Dark River Rising sounds like a great read and has been added to my TBR list. Thanks for visiting Wicked Cozy Authors!

    1. Thanks, Celia. Wicked Cozy is indeed a great group, and I’m enjoying being on the blog today and hearing from everyone. I hope you enjoy the book.

  10. You nailed one of the things I love most about the mystery community. Everyone is so nice, friendly, and welcoming.

    And I hear you on dropping lots of money on conventions. I’ve gone to Malice the last two years, and since I have to fly across the country to do that, it is definitely an expensive proposition. Since I’m not a writer, there’s no way to justify it except, “I really want to go.”

    Congrats on your debut novel!!!!

    1. Hi Mark. To spend time among one’s chosen group – and a friendly, enthusiastic, and endlessly entertaining group, for sure – is fully justified by the “I really want to go” motive, in my humble opinion. In fact, I’ve started looking at the conference and convention calendar with a great deal of anticipation. I’m just so thankful these gatherings exist. The mystery writing life would be a lot less personally fulfilling without the possibility of this camaraderie.

  11. My grown kids would tell you my You Never Know…this recipe could be a great one! They both knew the pizza delivery number by heart 🙂

    Welcome to the world of mystery Mr. Johns.

    1. Thanks, Lorraine. I like you’re kids’ spirit of adventure and willingness to gamble on new combinations of toppings. It’s probably no accident that a pizza looks so much like a roulette wheel. We patronize a pizza place that keeps our special recipe “at the ready”. It’s got all the major food groups, attractively displayed, and they cut it into squares, instead of triangles (why they do that, I don’t know – it’s a mystery).

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