Guest John Hoda – Following the Clues

Edith/Maddie here, with my last guest of the month.

John Hoda was kind enough to invite me as a guest to My Favorite Detective Stories, his popular podcast, a few months ago. Our own Julie was a guest, too. When I found out this private detective’s debut cozy mystery was coming out, I wanted to return the favor!

Here’s the blurb for Milford Elementary:

One deceased groom-to-be. One dead-end clue. One last chance at redemption. 

Gwendolyn Strong feels lost outside the classroom. And at loose ends after retiring, the ex-kindergarten teacher longs for the excitement her stable marriage and yoga sessions can’t provide. So the spirited fifty-something leaps into action when a former student takes his life on the eve of his wedding day.

Skeptical that he died by his own hand, Gwendolyn teams up with her elderly mentor and true-crime addict daughter to scour the small town for clues while dodging the dismissive cops. But when her prime suspect turns up fatally crushed in a freak accident, she fears a cunning culprit could be pulling some murderous strings. Can Gwendolyn solve the case before her name is next on the hit list?

It’s all about following the clues

I was sixteen years old and my dreams of becoming a professional baseball player were crushed. They named a Clint Eastwood movie after my problem. I had Trouble with the Curve. At the time I was working as a gas pump jockey where my hometown police department would fill up at the end of their shifts. (Gas was thirty-one cents a gallon!)

They would enthrall me with their stories and occasionally they would get a hot call and peel out with their overhead lights on and sirens blaring. I stood there with my squeegee dripping and was hooked. I decided I wanted to become a cop, more specifically, a detective. I went to college, studied Criminology and upon graduation, I was lucky enough to land a job with the same police department. I found that I learned as much from my textbooks and the police academy as I did from The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I am forever Watson to the keen eye and deductive reasoning of the bard of Baker Street. Throughout school and my early days as a rookie cop, I read Joseph Wambaugh. My one regret in life is that I never wore a gold shield working in Hollywood like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch.

Later as an insurance fraud investigator I walked the same mean streets of NYC as Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder.

Not only did I read them along with Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko and Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan, I found their struggles mirrored mine. I took solace and inspiration from them. My external conflicts with my cases of whodunnits and my internal struggles to rise above the politics, juggle a mind-numbing case load while still maintaining my desire to become the best investigator I could in many ways were like their heroes’ journey and their quest for justice. Those characters were the guys and gals who rode along with me as I went about my business of investigations. They were my partners, urging me on, telling me never to give up.

I am not a big fan of True Crime. It’s kinda like the plumber who comes home at night and has to fix the leaky faucet. Give me a fair play novel where I can follow along with the clues, and I am hooked. My reading has informed my writing of traditional (cozy) mysteries in an homage to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I first began writing what I knew with police procedurals and now with first-person present-tense cozies. I really want readers to follow the clues the way I did for forty-six years in the daytime as a gumshoe and at a night with a good crime fiction book. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you I would stand in the rain outside of Barnes & Noble for the next Robert Galbraith Comoran Strike and Robin Ellacott offering. 

Readers: where do you draw your inspiration? Writers, how does your reading influence your writing? You can read an advance copy of Milford Elementary for FREE here: or preorder here.

J A Hoda has been chasing the clues as a life-long investigator, having worked as a police officer, insurance fraud investigator and for the last twenty-five years as a private investigator. His cases have headlined in the Philadelphia Inquirer and New Haven Register. Hoda coaches private investigators on how to launch and market their businesses. He has written four how-to books in this niche. Fiction includes the six book FBI agent Marsha O”Shea police procedural series and the soon to be released Gwendolyn Strong Small Town Cozy Mystery four book series. His debut novel Second Chance at Bat came out 2013. He followed with Mugshots: My Favorite Detective Stories about his own career. John is the show runner for the My Favorite Detective Stories Podcast heard in 79 countries with over 200 episodes. 

John enjoys meditation, yoga, gardening and walking his dog, Billy where they reside in Milford, CT.

22 Thoughts

  1. I like to read books about places I’ve been to or places I would like to go to. Now my son went to Milford Elementary but in NH. I think I will have to give this book a try. Thank you!

  2. Oh my, what an exciting career! And putting all that experience to good use in writing, must be almost cathartic for you, I’d imagine. I’m not into those true crime shows, but I did enjoy Joe Kenda’s dry humor!

  3. Congratulations on your upcoming release, John! Agatha Christie is far and away the main influence in my traditional mysteries. Though, recently I’ve been finding touches of Elmore Leonard showing up more often.
    Wishing you much success with the release. Cheers!

  4. Congratulations on the book! I’ve read all over the mystery map and I like to think I’ve drawn a little inspiration from all of it.

    Liz Milliron

  5. Congratulations on the release of “Milford Elementary”! Sounds amazing and I’ve added it to my TBR list.

    Love it when an author can add real life experiences to a book. Best kind of research there is. Love it when I can learn little tidbits in a book or visit a place I’ve never been (even if it doesn’t really exist). We never get too old to learn and experience something new. So I guess you might say that’s my driving force – to keep moving forward and not being content in just the past or the here and now. The next book may open up doors I never dreamed of or give new insight into what I already now. And along the way, I very much enjoy reading a good book well written.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  6. Congrats on your new release, John! 🙂 Inspiration for me strikes at the most random hours. It could be when I see a face on the street, that could essentially become a character in my book.

  7. Welcome to the Wickeds, John! My reading of traditional crime novels–PD James, Ruth Rendell, Kate Atkinson, Deborah Crombie, Julia Spencer-Fleming et al made me want to be a mystery writer.

  8. Thanks for joining us here today, John. My real prod to writing a mystery was reading the ever-increasing slate of women writers writing female protagonists: Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, and Sara Paretsky in the PI world, and Katherine Hall Page, Susan Wittig Albert, and Diana Mott Davidson in the cozy/foodie world. It was the kind of book I liked to read and gave me the idea maybe I could write one, myself.

  9. I would have to say watching nature. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

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