(Mystery Scene continues its ongoing series in which authors talk about their plots, characters, or process.)
J.J. Hensley, left, is a former police officer and former special agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He is the author of the novels Resolve, Measure Twice, and Chalk’s Outline. Hensley graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University. His first novel, Resolve, was a Thriller Award finalist for best first novel. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
Here, Hensley lets his character, former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway, talk about his latest adventures in Bolt Action Remedy.
In Bolt Action Remedy, Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania.
Hensley swears Galloway has mellowed.
I used to have a temper. Not the kind of temper that caused me to lose control because of some minor slight, but more of the kind where I’d snap after absorbing a string of difficulties as if enduring Chinese water torture.
Insults would drip against my psyche, one at a time, with the relentless rhythm of life. I’d suffer in near silence. I’d suffer and reveal nothing—until it was too much. Then you’d see my temper. That’s what got me kicked out of the Virginia Military Institute my first year, when I was still a “Rat.” But over time I mellowed and the anger I seemed to always keep caged became drowsy and drifted off to sleep.
Now I’m working a cold case and my stoic demeanor and calm temperament are assets I can use. Even when I was a narcotics detective in Pittsburgh, I could stay unemotional and logically solve the puzzles that presented themselves as case files on my desk.
Some of the other cops kept their distance from me, not knowing how to take my dispassionate calculating nature. But for most of my time with the PD, they all respected my abilities and loyalty. That changed when I was abducted by a drug gang, tortured for weeks, and turned into an addict.
Don’t get me wrong. Nobody in the department blamed me for being taken captive.
No. It was when it became known I told my captors the details of ongoing narcotics operations and the identities of confidential informants that the narrative surrounding Detective Trevor Galloway changed.
I mean, I can’t blame the department for forcing me out after I was rescued. It was logical on their part and—justifiable or not—there was bound to be lingering resentment against me. Of course I didn’t ask to be kidnapped, tormented, and turned into a strung-out zombie. The brass should have recognized that fact and backed me. My own goddamned unit could have supported me, rather than shot sideway glances my direction. Any one of them would have broken quicker than I did, so who the hell are they to judge?
But, I suppose it’s understandable.
After the department pushed me away, I picked up a gig working for the District Attorney’s Office. It seemed like everything was going to be all right and my life was going to be back on track.
Then an assistant DA asked me to perjure myself and when I refused, he attacked my credibility and discussed my addiction issues in open court.
I have to admit to not handling that well and I was terminated from that position. They had to let me go. They had no choice in the matter. Of course it was the DA who was dirty and all I was doing was conducting myself honorably, and the fact that I only broke the liar’s nose is a testament to my self-control!
But hitting him left them no choice in the matter. And if they had even known that I sometimes see things—and people—who aren’t there, they would have gotten rid of me even sooner.
So, I suppose it was understandable.
Fortunately, all of that is behind me and now I have this new case to occupy my time. It’s an interesting case. Peter Lanskard, who owned a company called Mountain Resource Solutions, was murdered on his snow-covered estate in Central Pennsylvania.
The fact he was murdered isn’t really extraordinary, because he had some enemies. However, the sniper who got him skied into position, took an amazing shot, and skied away at a breakneck pace. That’s right—skied. At first I was surprised the year-old case hadn’t been solved. There could only be so many people with those skills who were connected to Lanskard.
But small-town police departments have their limitations and I assumed Washaway Township was no different. However, when I met the police chief at the original crime scene, I could tell she was no joke. Then the chief took me to the property adjacent to the Lanskard estate. That’s when I saw the problem. Peter Lanskard’s land backed up to a biathlon training camp where everyone can ski and shoot.
So here I am looking for a needle in a stack of needles and it seems nobody wants to talk to me. I stick out like a sore thumb in this town and nearly everyone wants me gone. These aren’t the city streets to which I’m accustomed and I can feel the resentment of the townspeople pressing in on me from all sides. And I’m being hunted. Or, at least I think I’m being hunted. A man called the Lithuanian is stalking me and he’s out for blood.
If he’s real.
I’m losing my bearings and I’m starting to feel the old itch in my veins that only the needle can scratch. It feels like everyone is against me and someone wants me dead. I came here as a favor and I didn’t even ask for this case. Just like I didn’t ask to be brutalized, or pumped full of heroin, or forced out of police work! I just want to solve my damn puzzles.
But, it’s okay.
The award season continues with nominations for the 2018 Agatha, which will be awarded during the Malice Domestic conference, which is celebrating its 30th year.
The nominees represent those books published in 2017.
The Agatha ballots will be included in registration bags at Malice Domestic 30 (April 27-29) and the winners will announced during the Agatha Banquet on Saturday evening, April 28.
Mystery Scene congratulations the nominees.
Best Contemporary Novel
Death Overdue: A Haunted Library Mystery by Allison Brook (Crooked Lane Books)
A Cajun Christmas Killing: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
No Way Home: A Zoe Chambers Mystery by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Take Out by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
Glass Houses: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Best Historical Novel
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen (Lake Union Publishing)
Murder in an English Village: A Beryl and Edwina Mystery by Jessica Ellicott (Kensington)
Called to Justice: A Quaker Midwife Mystery by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
The Paris Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam)
Dangerous to Know: A Lillian Frost and Edith Head Novel by Renee Patrick (Forge)
Best First Novel
Adrift: A Mer Cavallo Mystery by Micki Browning (Alibi-Random House)
The Plot Is Murder: Mystery Bookshop by V.M. Burns (Kensington)
Hollywood Homicide: A Detective by Day Mystery by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
Daughters of Bad Men by Laura Oles (Red Adept Publishing)
Protocol: A Maggie O'Malley Mystery by Kathleen Valenti (Henery Press)
From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Boström (Mysterious Press)
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (Poisoned Pen Press)
American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (Liveright Publishing Corp.)
Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction by Jess Lourey (Conari Press)
Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin’s Press)
Best Short Story
Double Deck the Halls by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press)
“Whose Wine Is it Anyway” by Barb Goffman in 50 Shades of Cabernet (Koehler Books)
“The Night They Burned Miss Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (May/June 2017)
“The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn” by Gigi Pandian (Henery Press)
“A Necessary Ingredient” by Art Taylor in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Seat (Down & Out Books)
Best Children’s/Young Adult
City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino (Polis Books)
Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead by Cindy Callaghan (Aladdin)
The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson (HarperCollins)
Audacity Jones Steals the Show by Kirby Larson (Scholastic Press)
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (Scholastic Press)