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Interview: September 9, 2021

Rob Leininger revived the hardboiled PI venue somewhat modeled after Travis McGee and Sam Spade, but in the humorous vein of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey. Kidnapped by a gorgeous gal in Reno, Mortimer Angel disappears for several days. When he finally makes contact with family and friends, he’s on a new case, one that takes him on an unexpected journey. That becomes a new case with more unexpected journeys. He travels more roads than ever before and ends up in a place he never could have predicted. Mort is gone. GUMSHOE GONE is the sixth book in this mystery-with-a-message series set in Nevada --- and Wyoming, as well as other western states. In this interview, Leininger chats with’s Dean Murphy about the current Mortimer Angel adventure, Mort’s world and a typical day in Leininger’s life. Your former publisher released GUMSHOE IN THE DARK. You’d stated that you wanted to simultaneously bring to readers hardcover, digital and paperback venues at lower cost than traditional publishing houses. GUMSHOE GONE is independently published. What are the benefits to the author and readers? Disadvantages?

Rob Leininger: My previous publisher was taking too long to publish my novels. The fifth novel, GUMSHOE IN THE DARK, came out about 18 months after the fourth novel, GUMSHOE ROCK. That’s too long. This novel, GUMSHOE GONE, was written and ready to go. I didn’t want it to be stuck in limbo for another year (or more). I also thought the previous prices were too high, discouraging readers. I want people to read my novels. That’s why I write them. I’ve set the prices as low as possible. Disadvantages? None so far. I’ll let you know when I come across one.

BRC: The Latin word mort means death. Did you intend this when creating Mortimer Angel, the Nevada PI famed for finding famous dead people?

RL: Yes. I took German in high school. “Mord” is German for “murder.” And many English words related to death have “mort” in them: mortal, mortician, etc. Mort’s “thing” (his shtick) is that he unintentionally finds famous missing people dead. Mort, therefore, is a fine tongue-in-cheek name that suits him perfectly and fits his quirky sense of humor.

BRC: What inspired the current plot and subplots?

RL: Not too much, actually. I think of a grabber first chapter, then the novel writes itself (with the help of a muse on my shoulder). I watch the movie as it unfolds and write what I see. But I’m critical. If the movie starts to head toward a cliff, I rein it in and keep going. It’s a very “organic” process. If I think things are starting to look too tame, I slam the story into a wall (but not off a cliff). If I surprise myself, I’ll probably surprise the reader.

BRC: Mort is married to Lucy Landry, a brilliant natural sleuth. She’s on an extended South Pacific cruise with her mother. Yet she senses that Mort is in danger. Not many mid-sea cell towers. What cosmic force is at work?

RL: It’s a…hmmm…cosmic force, Lucy’s “internet.” A kind of ESP. She and Mort are deeply connected, as seen in GUMSHOE IN THE DARK when she saves him and Harper from a distance of 500 miles. (Spooky music rises in the background.)

BRC: When Lucy is in port, she makes phone contact. She senses that Mort is in trouble and needs help, which causes her to contact her “cosmic sister,” Harper Leeman (introduced in GUMSHOE IN THE DARK), asking her to check on the gumshoe. Why not call Ma Clary, Mort’s boss?

RL: Mort is hurting. Lucy knows Mort has established the kind of personal connection with Harper (in the previous novel) that Mort needs now. Lucy also has a hidden ulterior motive (no spoilers here), which wouldn’t work with Mort’s boss. ’Nuf said.

BRC: Too long for a text message, Lucy sends Mort an old-fashioned love letter written on actual paper. How difficult was it to write this touching note after creating “killer” crime scenes?

RL: Lucy’s letter to Mort made me bawl when I wrote it, and when I re-read it (second draft), and again (third draft), etc. It’s by far the most emotional thing I’ve ever written. It shouts LOVE. It’s an irresistible hurricane of love. It makes this novel come alive. I can write about cold-blooded murderers and extreme love, but not in the same character.

BRC: This Mortimer Angel addict since page one of GUMSHOE needs to know what’s in store for the next escapade. Don’t tell us that Mort is gone (pun intended) forever.

RL: Mort isn’t gone. He’ll be back, and back in “Mort” form --- wisecracking his way through risqué (and deadly) situations. But what’s in store in the future? Hah. Even I don’t know that. Like I said, it’s an organic process. I’ll know it when I write it. All I need is a first chapter. I have faith in the process.

BRC: What makes the author tick?

RL: I write what I like to read --- serious stories, yet humorous and somewhat risqué. However, I have found that some readers don’t like R-rated (Gumshoe novels are never rated X) bawdiness in novels. Which is why I included a “Dear Reader” note in GUMSHOE GONE before chapter one. It warns readers who don’t like risqué situations to put this novel aside. Many people like the Gumshoe novels, but some don’t, so I’ve tried to warn the “serious crowd” off. I write to entertain, not to make people tighten their lips and mutter “shame, shame” under their breath. I wrote GUMSHOE GONE for people who enjoy life and laugh easily. There are thousands of other books for the “serious” reader. I even supply a short list to get them started.

BRC: Thank you for a thrilling read and for this interview. Final thoughts?

RL: Because of what happens in GUMSHOE GONE, I highly recommend that readers first read GUMSHOE IN THE DARK. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it would make GUMSHOE GONE even more enjoyable.