Monday, September 22, 2014

Pigeon River Blues by Wayne Zurl Excerpt & Interview

About The Book

Title: Pigeon River Blues
Series: A Sam Jenkins Mystery
Author: Wayne Zurl
Publisher: Iconic Publishing
Publication Date: May 31, 2014
Pages: 258
ISBN: 978-1938844027
Genre: Mystery / Police Procedural
Format: eBook / Paperback / PDF

Book Description:
Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie. 
The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.
C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.
The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.
Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate. 
During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into how he foils a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

Book Excerpt: 
An oddball named Mack Collinson sat in his mother’s office discussing the upcoming auction of farmland straddling the border of Prospect and neighboring Seymour, Tennessee.
Jeremy Goins, part-time real estate salesman at the Collinson agency, defrocked federal park ranger, and now full-time maintenance man in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, walked into the room and tossed a newspaper on Mack’s lap.
Collinson, a short, dark man in his late-forties, had close-cropped, almost black hair, a single bushy eyebrow spanning his forehead, and a thick beard that covered his face from just below his eyes and disappeared into the collar of his sport shirt.
“You seen this article in the Blount County Voice?” Goins asked.
Mack shrugged. His mother neither commented nor gestured.
Goins sighed and continued, seemingly unimpressed with his male colleague. “’Bout how Dolly’s havin’ a benefit show and that lezzy b*tch—‘cuse me, Ma—C.J. Profitt’s comin’ back home fer a week a’forehand.”
People showing deference to her age referred to Collinson’s mother as Miss Elnora. Those who knew her more intimately, called her Ma.
“Lemme see that,” Elnora snarled, screwing up her wide face, one surrounded by layers of gray, arranged in a style the locals called big hair.
“Yes, ma’am.” Anxious to please his employer, Jeremy snatched the newspaper from Mack and handed it to Mrs. Collinson.
The Collinson Realty and Auction Company occupied an old and not very well maintained building on McTeer’s Station Pike just below the center of Prospect. Sixty-five-year-old Elnora Collinson had been a realtor for more than forty years, first with her late husband and now with her son. In either case, Ma represented the brains of the operation.
After allowing the woman a few moments to read the article, Jeremy Goins continued the conversation.
“I hated that bitch back in hi-skoo,” he said. “And I hate her even more now that I know what she is and what her kind means ta the rest o’ us.”
                Goins was a stocky, rugged-looking man, approaching fifty, with a liberal mix of gray in his dark brown hair. The gray hair was the only liberal thing about Jeremy Goins.
                “I s’pose she’s fixin’ to stay around here and mebbe bring some o’ her pur-verted women friends with her,” Mack said. “This world’s goin’ ta hell when ya got ta be subjectedsta the likes o’ her on the same streets good Christian folk walk on.”
                “Amen ta that,” Jeremy said.
            When Ma finished reading she snorted something unintelligible, rolled up the paper, and threw it at a wastepaper basket, missing by a foot.
            “Boys, this is shameful.” She took a long moment to shake her head in disgust. “Downright shameful.”
                Both men nodded in agreement.
            “When that girl went ta Nashville an’ become a singer, I thought Prospect was rid o’ her and her kind once’t and fer all. Lord have mercy, but we’re doomed ta see her painted face on our streets ag’in.”
                “Momma,” Mack said, “we ain’t gotta take this.”
            He spent a moment shaking his head, too. Then he decided to speak for the rest of the population.
            “Don’t nobody here want her back. Mebbe we should send’er a message if the elected leaders o’ this city won’t. We kin let her know.”
                “You’re rot, son. Ain’t no reason why that foul-mouthed, lesbian should feel welcome here.” Ma Collinson, who resembled a grumpy female gnome, sat forward in her swivel chair and with some difficulty, pulled herself closer to the desk. “Jeremy, git me that li’l typewriter from the closet. I’ll write her a note sayin’ as much.”
                Goins nodded and moved quickly.
                “And Jeremy, afore yew git ta work at park headquarters, mail this in Gatlinburg so as ta not have a Prospect postmark on it.”
                Goins stepped to a spot where he could read over her shoulder and said, “Yes, ma’am, I’ll do it.”
                After inserting a sheet of white bond paper under the roller, Elnora Collinson began to type:
                Colleen Profitt we know you. We know what you are. All the money you made don’t make no difference about what you have became. You are a shame to your family and the city of Prospect. Do not come back here. We do not want you. God does not want you.


The Coalition for American Family Values

That was the first of six messages sent to country and western star C.J. Profitt. The last letter, typed almost two weeks later, said:

CJ Profitt you have not called off your visit to our city. We repeat. You and your lesbian friends are violating God’s Law. You must not come here. If you do you will regret it. The people of this city will not suffer because of you. Your ways are the ways of Sin. Your life is a life of SIN. If you come here YOU WILL suffer and then burn in Hell. Do not show your painted face here again. If you do you better make your peace with GOD. You will face HIM soon enough. Sooner than you think.

The Coalition for American Family Values


On Friday morning, February 2nd, Mack Collinson slammed the front door to the real estate agency, shrugged off his brown canvas Carhartt jacket, and tossed it on an old swivel chair. He spent a moment blowing his nose in a week-old handkerchief and stormed into his mother’s office.
                “Well she’s here,” he said, putting his hands on his hips. “She never done took your warnin’s serious-like.” 
Ma Collinson looked at her son over the tops of reading glasses she recently purchased at the Wal-Mart Vision Center.
“This mornin’ Luretta and the kids was watchin’ that Knoxville mornin’ show,” he said.  “And there she was—film o’ her at the airport ‘long with some others goin’ ta perform at Dolly’s benefit thing. She never listened ta ya, Ma. Now she’s here.”
At five after nine, a coo coo clock in Elnora’s office struck eight.
Mrs. Collinson pulled off her glasses and tossed them onto the desk. She wrinkled her brow and puckered her mouth in disgust. Elnora did not look happy.
“She’ll be talkin’ ‘bout her ideas and her ways like she always does,” Mack said. “It’s un-natural is what it is. Against God’s way. Why does God let people like her live, Ma? Makes me jest so gat-dag mad. Makes me think we ought ta kill her. Kill her our own selves.”

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About the Author

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Twenty (20) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been published as eBooks and many produced as audio books. Ten (10) of these novelettes are available in print under the titles: A Murder In Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mountain Mysteries and Reenacting A Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl has won Eric Hoffer and Indie Book Awards, and was named a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His full length novels are available in print and as eBooks: A New ProspectA Leprechaun's Lament,  Heroes & Lovers, and Pigeon River Blues.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You may read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.


Where are you from?

I was born on the Brooklyn side of Ridgewood, New York. When they could afford a larger apartment, my parents moved a few blocks east, still in Ridgewood, but in Queens County. Less than two years later and twenty-two miles further east, they bought a house in Uniondale where I stayed until I got married. When I completed my active duty in the army, my wife and I built a house on the North Fork of Long Island. Twelve years later, we moved half way back toward The City and stayed there until I retired. Now we live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee, just outside the famous national park.

Tell us your latest news?

Good news and bad news and good news—I just had my newest Sam Jenkins novel, PIGEON RIVER BLUES, published and that’s why I’m here. Unfortunately, my publisher through three other novels and two anthologies has decided to go out of the traditional publishing business. But I’ve got two more completed novels in the series and am part way into a third. Any publisher out there interested in picking up a series about one of the sharpest cops on the planet?

When and why did you begin writing?

In 2006, after ten years of writing non-fiction magazine articles, I just couldn’t dream up any more thrilling things to say about the 18th century French & Indian War in Tennessee. So, I decided to give fiction a try. I like to do other things, but amidst travelling, fishing, taking photographs, and even cutting much more grass than a former New York boy could ever envision, I needed another creative outlet. As a cop, I worked in a heavily populated and busy place for twenty years, and I retired with a bunch of war stories. I decided to create a character who was a retired New York detective who began a second career as a Tennessee police chief and use old cases as a basis for fiction that I would transplant from New York to Tennessee. With more than twenty titles published, it’s still fun. 

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Once I held a signed contract in my hand, I knew the tide had changed. I had moved from a dabbler to a card carrying pro. I had yet to sell one copy of anything, but I drew a parallel to other times in my life. When I stood in a large room at Fort Hamilton, NY, raised my right hand, and swore to protect the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, I became a professional in the military. I had yet to fire a shot in defense of my country or another soldier, but I’d be collecting a paycheck every month, so I was a soldier. Years later, I raised my hand again and swore to uphold the laws of the State of New York. I hadn’t arrested anyone yet or saved a life, but my new W-2 form said I was a cop. With that publishing contract, I had proof I was as writer. I ordered business cards. 

What inspired you to write your first book?

I had just read Robert B. Parker’s novel NIGHT PASSAGE, the first in his Jesse Stone series. I liked the story, liked Jesse, and saw a possibility for me. Stone was a former LAPD detective who took a job as chief in a small Massachusetts town. I thought, why can’t I invent a character—a retired New York detective who began his second career as chief in a small Tennessee town? How difficult could it be to come up with ideas for stories? I’d been a cop and Parker hadn’t. I could recycle those war stories and take advantage of the old author’s maxim of write what you know. I knew criminal investigations and my new home grounds. A NEW PROSPECT allowed me to learn how to write a 21st century novel and introduce readers to Sam Jenkins and some of those quirky characters who wander around the fictional city of Prospect, Tennessee.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Well, it sure isn’t literary fiction. Besides the occasional action inherent in police work, there is an ever present smattering of humor—sarcastic, cynical, caustic, black humor that can even border on slapstick. If cops didn’t “wise off” and vent some of the emotional baggage they carry, they’d soon be swapping their Harris tweeds for a straight jacket. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments about the timely humor I add to my stories—which I think are just a little this side of old-fashioned hardboiled crime fiction.

How did you come up with the title?

Originally PIGEON RIVER BLUES had a working title of Groundhog Day. After a week or so, I thought that kinds sucked. It alluded to the time of year when the story begins, but beyond that, it lacked luster and said nothing. Two of the novelettes I’d written in the past, A MURDER UIN KNOXVILLE and THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN BANK JOB have been consistent bestsellers on the publisher’s site. I’m assuming it has something to do with the regionally specific titles. I chose PIGEON RIVER BLUES because the key element in the story is a plot to kill a famous singer during a benefit concert (so the hero assumes) at a music hall within Dollywood which is near the river in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. My contribution to the cover art was to show a beautiful singer holding a microphone, standing in a spotlight. Adding the crosshairs and reticle superimposed over her figure conveys the message. And PIGEON RIVER BLUES sounded kind of funky and hardboiled.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I’m a pretty straight forward guy who doesn’t speak or write with hidden messages. But, I guess, PIGEON RIVER BLUES sends an inadvertent message. The trio of antagonists who happen to be numbskulls and ultra-right wing zealots might tend to say that if you’re far to the right or left with your political or religious views and you cross a line by infringing on the rights and personal liberties of another individual, you’re doing no one a favor.  

How much of the book is realistic?

I hope it’s all realistic, but much of it is based on real incidents and real characters. Actual police work does not provide a thrill a minute, so I fictionalize and embellish these stories to make them more readable, but I do not purposefully go “over the top” with the action. I’ve insisted on appropriate detail and plausible authenticity always being a part of any story.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I touched on that in question 9. Yes, this is a composite of several true events that perhaps wouldn’t make a great book if taken alone. But they seemed to fit together easily enough to provide a reasonable storyline. The characters are all based on real peopleThe three nitwits from Collinson realty are based on people I met, as are the army veterans Sam encounters along the way. His new police operations aide, retired Detective John Gallagher, is based on a unique character with whom I worked for many years. He and the fictional “John” were/are able to turn off their frequent class clown acts quickly and function as top-shelf detectives when necessary.

What books have most influenced your life most?

My first reaction to this was none. Reality and circumstances dictated how I acted and influenced my life. But after thinking more about that, I’d say it was the types of characters I read about or watched in films that, as a younger man, influenced my actions. No person my age would have escaped the countless characters from all the books and movies about the Early American West. In retrospect, I know that the fictional cowboys and lawmen were highly romanticized and the real old west was littered with alcoholics, psychopaths, and other abhorrent individuals totally unlike the Hopalong Cassidys, Gene Autrys and Roy Rogers-like characters I knew as a kid. These men were portrayed as unflawed heroes,  guys who behaved as adults, adhered to socially acceptable conduct, always stuck up for people less adept or fortunate as them, and mostly did the right thing. Perhaps the politicians, actors and entertainers, and  sports figures of the 21st century would do well to check out a few singing cowboys.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

That’s a tough one for me because I’ve often said I’d like to take classes taught by Robert B. Parker and James Lee Burke—both former professors. Parker for his philosophy of tell your story in the fewest possible words and Burke for his ability to describe people, places, and events with a poetry few writers can equal. Burke also has an uncanny ability of allowing the reader to creep into the psyches of his characters. 

What book are you reading now?

THE DARK HORSE by Craig Johnson, from his Walt Longmire series.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

He’s not a new author, but not long ago I found Philip Kerr’s Bernie Günther mysteries. I think he’s terrific. And Bernie is like pre-war Berlin’s answer to Philip Marlowe.

What are your current projects?

My two completed novels that I have to now focus on selling to a publisher are A TOUCH OF MORNING CALM which involves multiple homicides and centers on Korean Organized crime. That one gives me a chance to show off how much I know about Korea, and A CAN OF WORMS which is the sequel to PIGEON RIVER BLUES and ends up causing Sam Jenkins to suffer more personal loss than one character should be asked to endure in only 86,000 words.

What would you like my readers to know?

I’ll use this question to make my disclaimer. I’ll tell readers who shouldn’t read my books. If you’re into unbelievable over-the-top fantasy police fiction, go elsewhere.
If you’re hoping to see Sam Jenkins chase a fleeing felon over the rooftops of Prospect and at an opportune moment, shoot a arrow-tipped steel cable out of his wristwatch from one tall building to another and slide on a pulley across a wide abyss to head off the villain—check out the newest James Bond flick, not me.
But if you want to see what real police work is all about—the victim’s horror and suffering, the cop’s empathy, the humor, the exhilaration of delivering a baby, or the depression of taking a life, give Sam Jenkins a try.  A good way to start is by looking over the chronological sequence of his adventures at:

Connect with Wayne Zurl:

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

 Pigeon River Blues Event Page


  1. Thank you for hosting the virtual book tour event. - Kathleen Anderson, PUYB Tour Coord.

  2. Thanks for inviting me to your blog and asking such interesting questions. And thanks for providing your fans a look at an excerpt from PIGEON RIVER BLUES.
    All the best,