Back in July, 2009, I read Retirement Homes Are Murder, and felt as though I'd made some new friends.
Author Mike Befeler has written three books that are often referred to as "Geezer Lit", centered on main character, octogenarian Paul Jacobson. They are honest depictions of what it's like to be old. They are filled with humor... and they can break your heart-- a range of emotions not often found in crime fiction.
When I first started thinking about this series, one of the first things I did was to write down a list of authors I wanted to interview. Mike Befeler was on the very first list. I've recently read (and enjoyed) the second book in the series, so there will be a review in the very near future, but let's talk more Mike.
His second Geezer Lit mystery, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, was nominated for the Lefty Award for best humorous mystery of 2009.
Mike is an acclaimed public speaker, serves on the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council, and is vice president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.
I'll have more links for Mike Befeler at the end of the interview. If you're interested in reading one of the excellent Paul Jacobson/ Geezer Lit mysteries, here is the list:
Retirement Homes Are Murder (2007)
Senior Moments Are Murder (August 17, 2011)
Now it's time for the interview!
I don't even remember the name but it was about major league baseball players. I was an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan as a kid, growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and used to listen to baseball games on the radio in the morning (time difference). My school library had a collection of books on sports, and I had not been a motivated reader until I found a book of baseball stories. In 1956 the Brooklyn Dodgers played an exhibition series in Japan and stopped in Honolulu. My dad was a professional photographer and covered the event. I still have a framed document on my wall with a picture of Pee Wee Reese doing a hula and the back of me as I got Roy Campanella's autograph.
Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy traveling to visit our three kids and four grandkids. I'm an ex-tennis player (was nationally ranked as a kid, ranked number 2 in Hawaii as an adult and played collegiate tennis at Stanford) and now enjoy another racquet sport called platform tennis. I'm also an avid walker, hiker and snowshoer. Living in Colorado, I avail myself of the outdoors as much as possible. I also volunteer in support of the aging community. I'm co-chair of the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council.
If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)
Living in Boulder, Colorado, I'd recommend walking through the campus of the University of Colorado, driving up to the top of Flagstaff Mountain to enjoy the view over town, stop at Boulder Falls in Boulder Canyon, and continue up the canyon through the town of Eldora to the Hessie trailhead and hike to Lost Lake.
You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?
I'd pick my son Roger Befeler. He's taller and much more handsome than I am and was a professional musical theater performer for a dozen years in a number of traveling Broadway shows including playing the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.
Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?
One of my favorites in Grandma Mazur in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. She's a hoot and shows a vigorous older character. I also like Rita Lakin's Gladdy Gold and Parnell Hall's Cora Felton, the puzzle lady. As you can tell, I enjoy older, humorous characters.
Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?
My first published novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was the fourth novel-length manuscript I had written. I had previously published a short story called, "Never Trust a Poison Dart Frog," in an anthology titled, "Who Died in Here?" which was a collection of short stories that had either a death or a murder taking place in the bathroom. I was in business for 39 years and developed my writing skills by authoring a number of journal articles as well as a lot of daily business correspondence. As I tell people, I learned a little about fiction writing because I used to write press releases.
What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore? How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?
I said, "Wow!" I received my first contract offer on my work email. I immediately called my wife to say, "Guess what happened?"
The term "Geezer Lit" always makes me smile, and I think having a sleuth with short-term memory loss is a stroke of genius. What was your inspiration for such an unlikely detective?
My first book, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was inspired by people I met when my mom and stepdad lived in a retirement community. I was struck by the pathos of the aging process but also the vitality and sense of humor of many of the residents living there. That novel didn't even start as a mystery--it began as a story about three men and three women in a retirement home. At the same time I was writing a collection of short stories that had either the victim or the perpetrator being an older person. The two ideas merged and Retirement Homes Are Murder was born. My stepdad had short-term memory loss so that's where the idea for Paul Jacobson having memory problems came from.
I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?
Parnell is a great guy, writes outstanding humorous mysteries and was kind enough to give me a blurb for my second book, Living With Your Kids Is Murder. In addition to the people who I greet in book stores who only ask where the restroom is, I'll give you several examples. My series has geezer sex and at one signing a woman probably in her fifties couldn't believe that someone in his eighties still had sexual relations and wanted to argue with me about it not being possible. A positive experience was this. I greeted a man and asked him if he read mysteries. "No." Then I asked him if he enjoyed humorous books. "Not particularly." Then I said, "That's too bad. I'm a local author signing a humorous mystery." He smiled and said, "I always support local authors, I'll take a copy."
The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?
I view eBooks as offering another form of publication. Just as my two published novels are out in hardcover, large print, paperback book club and audio editions, they are also available on Kindle and Nook. Older readers welcome the large print and audio book editions, and I'm now finding that eBooks, which were once mainly the domain of young, computer literate readers, have become accepted by a number of older readers because they can change the font size.
The third novel in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series, Senior Moments Are Murder will be released August 17, 2011. It takes place in Venice Beach, CA.
You may be familiar with the "Jessica Fletcher Syndrome," from Murder She Wrote where more people die in Cabot Cove than live in such a small town. I get away from this by moving Paul around since he is a crime magnet, and this way not too many people die in any one location. In addition to Hawaii and Colorado for the first two books, the fourth book in the series takes place on an Alaskan cruise ship.
Here are other ways to "get more Mike":
Thank you, Mike, for spending some time with us on Scene of the Crime!