Skip to main content

Author Talk: June 23, 2017

Warren C. Easley was a research scientist and an international business executive before becoming an award-winning author. BLOOD FOR WINE is the fifth and latest book in his mystery series starring Cal Claxton, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who has settled in Oregon’s Red Hills after his wife’s suicide and runs a small law practice that includes some pro bono work. In this interview, Easley mentions the crime writers who most influenced his work in this series, discusses the feedback he has received from readers about Cal’s love interests that made him think about the direction in which he was taking his protagonist, and previews his next Cal Claxton mystery, MOVING TARGETS, which will be set primarily in Portland.

Question: When you decided to launch the Cal Claxton series, was there a mission statement you devised about what kind of protagonist Cal should be, and how the books might create their own niche?

Warren C. Easley: From the outset, I wanted Cal to be an everyman who bristles at injustice, particularly when it’s perpetrated against the most vulnerable among us. He’s tough, too, with a dogged determination to get up when he’s knocked down, both literally and figuratively. Wounded deeply by the suicide of his wife, he moves from L.A., where he was a successful prosecutor, to the Oregon wine country to reinvent himself as a small-town lawyer.

Q: Which crime writers, past or present, would you say most influenced your work in the Cal series?

WCE: I’m in debt to so many great writers, but I’ll mention three. James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series catalyzed my desire to write. I admire the grit of Robicheaux and the way the Gulf Coast setting comes alive in Burke’s deft hands. I greatly admire Michael Connelly, particularly his plotting and attention to authentic detail. Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski is another character who personifies the doggedness I wanted Cal to have.

Q: Have you ever received feedback from a reader that proved helpful in setting your course for future Cal stories?

WCE: I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about Cal’s love interests, which numbered four in the first four books. The feedback usually has some variation of “I loved this character. Are you bringing her back?” It was fun creating a new character each time, but that got me thinking: What did this say about Cal? Was I creating a man whom my readers might see as a womanizer? I decided no, Winona Cloud was the woman who owned the piece of his heart not broken by his wife’s suicide. We learn this in book five, BLOOD FOR WINE, but his relationship with Winona is nothing if it isn’t complicated.

Q: Oregon itself plays a large part in your two most recent books, the new BLOOD FOR WINE and last year's NOT DEAD ENOUGH, utilizing (respectively) the Oregon winemaking industry and local Native American history. What is another aspect of Oregon's history and culture you might turn to for future Cal Claxton novels?

WCE: In addition to his one-man law practice in the wine country town of Dundee, Cal does pro bono legal work in Portland. The book I’m writing now, MOVING TARGETS, is set primarily in Portland. The plot revolves around the gentrification of the city’s traditional neighborhoods by relentless development, an ongoing reality that threatens the basic identity of the city. Huge financial incentives unleash sinister motives, and Cal is caught in the middle of the maelstrom. Stay tuned.

Q: The way you've handled Cal's romance with attorney Winona Cloud has earned you accolades. Why do you think it is so difficult for some crime writers to handle that particular storytelling element?

WCE: In NOT DEAD ENOUGH, Cal and Winona are thrust together by circumstances, only to find they have a great deal in common. They’re both independent and leery of long-term attachments, but at the same time there’s a strong, mutual attraction and sense of respect. In MOVING TARGETS, their relationship is put to the test, and since I don’t outline, I’m as curious as my readers to know how it comes out.